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House of Commons

Wednesday 15 November 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Private Bills

[Lords] (Suspension)--

Motion made,

That so much of the Lords Messages [2nd November, 7th November and 8th November] as relates to the River Tees Barrage and Crossing Bill [Lords], the Happisburgh Lighthouse Bill [Lords], the Great Yarmouth Port Authority Bill [Lords], the Southampton Rapid Transit Bill [Lords], the Heathrow Express Railway Bill [Lords], the London Local Authorities (No. 2) Bill [Lords] and the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) Bill [Lords] be now considered.

That this House doth concur with the Lords in their Resolution.-- [The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Hon. Members : Object.

To be considered on Monday 20 November.

Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill

Motion made,

That so much of the Lords Message [2nd November] as relates to the Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill be now considered.

That the Promoters of the Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office of their intention to suspend further proceedings not later than the day before the close of the present Session and that all fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid ;

That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House ;

That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session ;

That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first, second and third time and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read ; That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session ;

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.-- [The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Hon. Members : Object.

To be considered on Monday 20 November.

British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill

[Lords] Ordered,

That Standing Order 205 (Notice of third reading) be suspended in respect of the British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill [Lords] and that the Bill be now read the third time.-- [The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.

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Oral Answers to Questions


Electricity Generation

1. Mr. Eadie : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for meeting the heads of the electricity generating boards in Scotland to discuss future electricity generation.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind) : I meet the chairmen of the Scottish electricity boards from time to time to discuss a wide range of issues affecting the industry, including future electricity generation.

Mr. Eadie : With regard to the discussions that the Secretary of State has had, or will have, does not his conscience trouble him? Is he not fully responsible for the destruction of the Scottish coal industry, in the stupid belief that nuclear energy is cheaper than coal?

Mr. Rifkind : I remind the hon. Gentleman as kindly as I can that the Labour Government of which he was such a distinguished member took the initial decision to build Torness nuclear power station and continued with the Hunterston power stations. As the hon. Gentleman was an energy Minister in that Government, I think that he had better look to his own record before he seeks to criticise others.

Mr. Allan Stewart : My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that the heads of the generating boards are anxious that the Scottish flotation should go ahead as fast as possible--either before or certainly at the head of the list of English flotations. Can my right hon. and learned Friend say anything about the timing, particularly as export opportunities have been increased by recent announcements?

Mr. Rifkind : My hon. Friend is correct that the export opportunities have improved. That will also benefit the coal industry, to which the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) referred. The consequences of the announcement that I made last week will be in one respect easier to implement in Scotland than south of the border. We had already decided to put nuclear power stations into a freestanding Scottish nuclear company. That makes the organisational changes easier to apply to the new arrangements.

Mrs. Ray Michie : In view of the uncertainty in the electricity industry following the shambles last week and the unknown increase in nuclear costs, how does the Secretary of State intend to protect the small electricity producers which at present sell their product to the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board? The payment to them has already been reduced by 7 per cent. since 1986.

Mr. Rifkind : The precise arrangements between the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and small producers in the Highlands and Islands is a matter for the contractual relations between the board and the companies in question. Nothing that was announced last week will change that. I very much hope that the small, independent producers will continue to play what will

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inevitably be a modest part, because of surplus capacity in Scotland, but nevertheless an important part in electricity generation during the next few years.

Sir Peter Emery : As part of my right hon. and learned Friend's negotiations could affect the whole of the British Isles, can he assure the House that in view of its great importance to the nation, the distinguished research work on fast breeders carried out at Dounreay will be encouraged to continue?

Mr. Rifkind : Dounreay and its activities are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. However, I know that those who work at Dounreay and the Department of Energy are interested in a diversification of the research work carried out there. I very much hope that that will prove to be possible. As for the economic implications of the decision on Dounreay, I think that announcements to be made later today will outline useful opportunities for the Highlands and Islands Development Board to diversify economic opportunities in the north of Scotland.

Mr. Dewar : I certainly do not wish to dwell on the shambles that has been created in the Scottish electricity industry in recent weeks by a Government who seem to equate disorganised retreat with a planned policy. Let me invite the Secretary of State to look to the future. Has he seen the article by Patrick Donovan in The Guardian today which suggests that Ministers are still hoping to offset nuclear liabilities against the private sector and that the Scottish companies have been asked to agree higher than expected terms for the purchase of nuclear power? Is there any truth in that, and will the Secretary of State confirm what I think was said by the Minister of State on television last week : that there will be continuity of pricing and no attempt to save the Treasury's embarrassment at the expense of the consumer?

Mr. Rifkind : As a central part of my comments last week, I said that there would be no adverse implications for tariffs as a result of last week's announcement. I add that tariff continuity, which is the principle that we have enunciated, is of great importance to us. As nuclear represents a higher proportion of the industry in Scotland compared with the industry in England and Wales, there are implications for what would be the rate of return on nuclear investment. We have explained to the nuclear company, the South of Scotland electricity board and the hydro board the basic principle that should be accommodated to ensure that tariff implications for the general public are no different from what they would have been had the whole industry been privatised.

Hospital Laboratory Services

2. Mr. Watson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had, or intends to have, with the medical profession in Scotland relating to the proposed privatisation of hospital laboratory services.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth) : I am not aware of any proposals to privatise hospital laboratory services. Boards are reviewing the way in which services are provided and giving consideration to the scope for putting out certain elements to competitive tender.

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Mr. Watson : Is it not ironic that today Opposition Members should feel it necessary to seek reassurance from the Minister on such a basic health matter as consultation with doctors? On this day in 1922 a general election was held at which for the first time we returned a large number of Labour Members, including the "Red Clydesiders". A major plank of that election manifesto was free and comprehensive health care for all. Yet 67 years later the Minister is determined to deny just that. Will he at least guarantee that in future, before introducing any further so-called health reforms, he will listen to and take account of the views of the medical profession in Scotland?

Mr. Forsyth : The irony is that we should receive advice from the Labour party on the National Health Service. The Labour party in government cut spending on the Health Service and cut nurses' pay. As a result of competitive tendering, about £53 million has become available to the Health Service in Scotland. The Opposition opposed that, but it is equivalent to-- [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen do not like to hear the truth about the Health Service. The savings from competitive tendering to date in Scotland are equivalent to something like 18,000 additional hip replacements. I certainly give my backing to the management in the Health Service as they continue to get the best deal for patients.

Mr. Favell : Can my hon. Friend explain why the Scots are so opposed to value for money in the National Health Service? As a Yorkshireman--like the Scots, we have a reputation for being careful--I am astonished that the Scots should be so canny about their private affairs yet are prepared to pay through the nose for their public services.

Mr. Forsyth : With all due respect to my hon. Friend, he must not make the mistake of confusing the Scots with the Labour party and Labour Members. It is certainly true that Labour Members of Parliament have opposed competitive tendering in the Health Service and value for money. That is because they speak for the public sector trade unions, while we speak for the patients.

Mr. Sillars : The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) should not confuse the Scottish people with the Minister either. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the moves made by Greater Glasgow health board? Will he talk to the health board and explain that it is unacceptable for patients to have their medical needs set against the need for profit of a private company, particularly in the important diagnostic services?

Mr. Forsyth : The Greater Glasgow health board needs no advice from me on putting the interests of patients first. Services will be put out to competitive tender to improve their quality and to obtain value for money. The hon. Gentleman should not prejudge this matter. By organising laboratory services differently, a faster service offering better results more quickly for patients may be achieved. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would give management of the Greater Glasgow health board his backing for seeking to ensure the best interests of patients.

Mr. Worthington : Recently, Opposition Members had the advantage of visiting the Greater Glasgow health board, where we saw a most demoralised collection not of public sector unions but of consultants. They had discovered that their services had been advertised in an obscure European Community journal. Does the Minister

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agree that that is a damaging way to run the Health Service? Will he acknowledge that pathology, clinical, research and teaching services are an integral part of the Health Service? To encourage his appointed puppets on the Greater Glasgow health board to split up services so that they can make nice little earners is no way to run the National Health Service. Will he condemn that, as did the Prime Minister when she said that there was no intention to privatise the Health Service?

Mr. Forsyth : The journal which the hon. Gentleman described as obscure was the "European Journal". The advertisement was not for contracts with the Greater Glasgow health board but asked for expressions of interest in the provision--

Mr. Worthington : It invited tenders.

Mr. Forsyth : If the hon. Gentleman knows the answers to the questions, I am surprised that he bothers to ask them. The advertisement was placed in the journal to establish whether firms with the necessary expertise and ability might be able to assist Greater Glasgow health board to offer the best possible service to patients. Once again, an Opposition Front Bench spokesman makes it perfectly clear that he puts the interests of the public sector unions and the briefings that he receives from particular interests in the Health Service above the interests of patients.

Mr. John Marshall : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is high time that Labour Members stopped inventing scares that merely cause concern to the elderly and the ill and recognised that a record number of patients are being treated by a record number of doctors and nurses? The Health Service can look forward to more good news later this afternoon.

Mr. Forsyth : I agree with my hon. Friend. The building programme of the Health Service in Scotland is the biggest in its history. In Scotland a major new hospital extension has been built every two months since the Government took office. More patients are being treated and a wider range of services is being offered, which is due in part to the success of general management. Unfortunately, the Labour party seems to oppose every innovation. It opposed competitive tendering but supported those who went on strike, thereby leading to patients having their operations cancelled. Patients will benefit from the courage and determination of the management of the Health Service, who receive no support from the Labour party.

Mr. Speaker : I think that I am at fault for allowing this question to go wide. I thought that I heard the Minister say that there was no intention to privatise hospital laboratory services. May we now please stick more closely to the questions on the Order Paper?

Council of Fisheries Ministers

3. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he intends to attend personally the next European Council of Fisheries Ministers.

Mr. Rifkind : Scottish Office Ministers attend Fisheries Councils whenever possible, and in all cases where matters

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of direct importance to Scotland are being discussed. I hope to attend the Fisheries Council meeting scheduled for December.

Mr. Wallace : I congratulate the Secretary of State on what I think will be his debut at a Fisheries Council meeting. Will the meeting discuss the steps that the British Government and other Community nations are taking to reach the targets set under the multi-annual guidance programme? Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes to that meeting, will he persuade his colleagues in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Treasury to show more willingness to implement a decommissioning programme? Many people in the industry believe that such a programme is necessary if the industry is to be managed properly so that it can face the present great crisis.

Mr. Rifkind : As yet, we cannot be certain about the details of the December meeting, although it is likely that total allowable catches will be discussed.

There are different views and great uncertainty about the principle of a decommissioning scheme. There was a decommissioning scheme in the past which was severely criticised by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office. We must take that into account before concluding whether another such scheme would be appropriate.

Mr. Younger : I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's intention to be present at these meetings when required. Can he assure the House that he will be in the closest possible contact with the Scottish fishing industry during the negotiations? I ask him not to hesitate to make it clear that, although times may be difficult, the position would be incomparably worse if stocks were to be overfished, making them of no use in the future.

Mr. Rifkind : I welcome my right hon. Friend back to our deliberations on these occasions. We value highly our close liaison with the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and other fishing organisations. I met leaders of the fishing industry on Monday and my noble Friend the Minister of State had a further meeting with its representatives yesterday. There is general agreement that those who have the long-term interests of the industry at heart must take account of the best evidence that we have on fishing stocks. Clearly, it would be against the interests of the communities that depend on fishing if stocks were overfished, thereby denying a future to one of Scotland's important industries.

Mr. Robert Hughes : Is the Secretary of State aware that the sudden closure last week of the North sea haddock fishery left the Aberdeen Fish Producers Organisation with 600 tonnes of haddock for the remainder of the year? This will deprive fish producers of their catch and of about £1 million in revenue. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there appear to be proposals on the table for a further cut of haddock quotas of 30 per cent. compared with last year, and for another severe cut in cod quotas? This leaves the management of North sea fishing in an absolute shambles. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that we need a sensible, rational, planned system of fisheries management if fishing communities throughout the country, especially in the north-east of Scotland, are not to face total ruin?

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Mr. Rifkind : The fish processors' organisations have made it especially clear to the Government and to the wider community that they strongly believe in the need to conserve fishing stocks because overfishing would not be in the interests of their industry. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation has made some sensible and attractive proposals on possible improvements to conservation measures. The Government believe that the federation is reacting constructively and helpfully. We intend to build on its proposals with regard to the possible introduction of new conservation requirements. We have recently published a consultative document on licence aggregation to help to deal with the problem of capacity. That, too, will be a useful contribution to making progress.

Sir Michael Shaw : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the strong feeling among English fishermen, especially on the Yorkshire and north-east coast, that there has been serious overfishing of haddock stocks in Scotland and that, because of a lack of control over Scottish fishing, my fishermen are being denied their rightful quota, on which they depend at this time of year? Will my right hon. and learned Friend make the Fisheries Council aware that next year we expect to have a compensatory increase in our quota and we expect measures to be taken to ensure that overfishing in Scotland does not continue?

Mr. Rifkind : My hon. Friend will appreciate that at present there is neither a Scottish nor a Yorkshire quota for haddock. It is for the producer organisations to try to ensure, in the administration of the scheme, the best use of the available quotas. There has been some controversy not simply between Yorkshire and Scotland, but within Scotland on whether certain stocks have been overfished by some producer organisations to the disadvantage of others. That suggests that better administration of the scheme by the producer organisations may be appropriate.

Mr. Wilson : The Secretary of State will want to reconsider, in the light of advice, his statement, that there is no Scottish haddock quota. We noted in the press this morning a report that the "Buchan bulldog" is to return as a member of the A-team of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), to revive the fortunes of the Scottish Conservative party. For starters, the "Buchan bulldog" should get his teeth into the Secretary of State and force him to do something for the Scottish fishing industry. Does the Secretary of State accept that there is a huge credibility gap between scientists and Scottish fishermen in the assessment of stocks, especially haddock, and will he tell us how much independent judgment is exercised by scientific advisers in Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind : Scottish fishermen will note the hon. Gentleman's frivolous approach to their present difficulties. The Commission and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland both receive scientific advice. It is in the interests of the fishing industry that, if the advice coincides, our attitude towards quotas is based on it. Our attitude cannot be based on aspirations or on a desire to maximise fishing irrespective of the implications for the long-term health of fish stocks. That might bring some short-term relief, but it would bring long-term criticism, and Her Majesty's Government would not wish to follow that course.

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GPs' Contracts

4. Mr. Norman Hogg : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the medical profession on general practitioners' contracts ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Forsyth : I met the Scottish general medical services committee twice earlier this year and on 16 March I wrote to all general practitioners in Scotland seeking their views on the terms of a new contract. My right hon. and learned Friend and I met representatives of the medical profession on 12 April when I wrote again to all GPs with proposals for changes to the contract in Scotland. My right hon. and learned Friend was also represented at about 100 hours of meetings with the profession's national negotiators which resulted in agreement being reached on 4 May.

Mr. Hogg : Apart from the Minister's well-publicised clones in Chester street, who agrees with the Government's proposals? Would it not be a good idea for the Minister to take the advice of the Secretary of State, as advanced at the Tory party conference, and listen to what the patients and doctors have to say? None of them consents to what he proposes.

Mr. Forsyth : May I say in the nicest way possible to the hon. Gentleman that had he listened to my answer, he would have heard me say that agreement was reached on 4 May. He asked who agreed to the proposals. The answer is the negotiators on behalf of the doctors who recommended the proposals to their members.

Sir Hector Monro : In view of the misinformation put out by the medical profession to patients and our constituents, will my hon. Friend publish a document showing the undoubted gains to patient care from the medical contract and the gains to the medical profession in financial resources?

Mr. Forsyth : I shall consider my hon. Friend's suggestion carefully. It is important that good information about the contract is available and he is right to point to one of the unfortunate aspects of the dialogue. There have been many misleading claims about the Government's proposals for the Health Service which have frightened people and caused needless anxiety, especially among the elderly. I welcome the fact that the British Medical Association has now acknowledged that its assertions about indicative budgets for drugs, for example, which it claimed would result in drugs not being available to patients, were not correct and that patients will be able to obtain the services that they require. The new contract will ensure that doctors who turn up in the middle of the night, who are available to their patients and who provide a broad range of services are properly rewarded, and that must be a great step forward.

Mr. Ernie Ross : If anyone is being misleading, it is the Minister, who has suggested that the contract was agreed by the doctors. The agreement was between the Minister and his officials, and the negotiators. The contract was rejected by the doctors and by the overwhelming majority of the patient population in Scotland. If the Minister has come here to mislead the House, he should try it on some other group, because we have discussed the Scottish

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doctors' approach with them and they are 100 per cent. opposed to the contract. The Minister would do well to correct his statements to the House.

Mr. Forsyth : I certainly said nothing in any way misleading. I know that the hon. Gentleman, with his association with the trade union movement, will take a particular view of the difficulties that are caused when those negotiating on behalf of a group find the ground cut from under their feet because their members refuse to back a package freely negotiated between the parties.


5. Mr. Jack : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the percentage increase in out-patient attendance in day cases and in- patients treated in the Scottish Health Service since 1979.

Mr. Michael Forsyth : Between March 1979 and March 1989 there was an increase of 608,717, or 11.7 per cent. in out-patient attendances, an increase of 95,699 or 119.2 per cent. in day cases and an increase of 144,531, or 19.6 per cent. in in-patient discharges.

Mr. Jack : May I, through my hon. Friend, congratulate those involved in the provisions of health care in Scotland on those remarkable figures? May I ask my hon. Friend--on the other side of the medical balance sheet--whether he is undertaking any programmes to improve health education and preventive measures in Scotland to help to contain the need for further resources?

Mr. Forsyth : I can reassure my hon. Friend. Our future priorities for the Health Service include an emphasis on preventive medicine and the new GPs' contract is intended to reward GPs who place more emphasis on preventive medicine. My hon. Friend is right to point out how remarkable those figures are. They show a Health Service that has never been better funded or treated more patients. That is the result of the Government's investment in the Health Service, which stands in stark contrast to the record of the previous Labour Government. In every year in which the Government have been in office, Health Service funding has increased. In recent times, only under the last Labour Government have cuts been made.

Dr. Godman : We have been discussing the proposed changes in the provision of health care. Is the Minister aware that each and every one of the consultants at Inverclyde royal hospital voted against that hospital's opting out? Will he assure me that that balance of view against will mark the end of his proposal for the opting out of that hospital?

Mr. Forsyth : I have no proposal for the opting out of any hospital. Self-governing hospitals will remain part of the National Health Service. Self-governing status will be available on a voluntary basis to hospitals that wish to benefit from it. I should have thought that consultants and other professionals--and, indeed, Members of Parliament--would wish to wait for a proposal and then examine that proposal carefully to see whether it was in the interests of patients and the community as a whole. That is the basis on which proposals for self-governing status will be evaluated in future. It will be entirely a matter for the hospitals, including Inverclyde royal hospital, to decide

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whether they will benefit from decisions being taken at local level rather than above their heads at health board level or by my Department.


6. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people migrated from Scotland (a) to England, (b) to other parts of the United Kingdom and (c) to other parts of the world in the past 20 years ; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Ian Lang) : Over the last 20 years, estimated net migration from Scotland has totalled 146,000 to the rest of the United Kingdom and 181,000 to other parts of the world.

Mr. Greenway : Can my hon. Friend confirm that those figures show that far fewer Scots are emigrating under this Conservative Government than under previous Labour Governments-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Mr. Greenway : --presumably because the Scottish economy is now stronger than it has ever been? Will my hon. Friend explain the Scottish saying that when a Scot emigrates to another land, both countries benefit?

Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend puts his point well. I believe that it was an Englishman who said that for centuries Scots have travelled the world keeping the Sabbath and everything else that they could lay their hands on. Scotland has benefited from the fact that many Scots have found themselves important positions south of the border, for example as chairmen of companies such as ICI and Shell. The Cabinet benefits from the presence of a Scottish Lord Chancellor and a Scottish Minister responsible for information. I am sure that Scotland and the United Kingdom are the better for their presence.

Mr. Canavan : Do the migration statistics include the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) whose reported advice to Scottish Tory Members is, "If you're looking to the future lads, you'd better follow my example and migrate to a safe Tory seat in the deep south"?

Mr. Lang : Southend, East has never been better represented than it is now and Scotland still benefits from the knowledge and experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor).

Mr. Andy Stewart : Historically Scots have always left home to conquer, and most succeed--for example, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury. On the other hand there is a very tiny minority who do not succeed. A constituent of mine who found the going tough, went back home to Scotland and he is now the hon. Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood). Does my hon. Friend agree that if Socialism spreads south of the border, we will witness emigration on a scale seen in East Germany today?

Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Under Labour Governments in the 1960s and 1970s overseas emigration reached about 150,000. In the past five years overseas emigration has been running at about one third of that level. Clearly, fleeing from Socialism occurred under Labour Governments before, just as it is happening now in eastern Europe.

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Mr. Malcolm Bruce : Does the Minister accept that the harsh reality is that the population of Scotland is falling and that our brightest and best continue to leave? Even in an area like my constituency where the population is growing, matters are not helped by companies like BP which promise to bring jobs to Scotland and then make 900 people redundant.

Mr. Lang : The hon. Gentleman is wrong about BP. It employs more people in Scotland now than at the time of the Britoil takeover. The hon. Gentleman may also like to know that all the regions of Scotland with the exception of Strathclyde and, to a very small degree, Lothian and Tayside, have had population gains. With regard to emigration within the United Kingdom, the recent figures suggest that there is at present a flow back to Scotland.

Council House Sales

7. Mr. Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many council houses have been sold to sitting tenants in Scotland since May 1979.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) : Since April 1979, nearly 164,000 public sector houses in Scotland have been sold to sitting tenants. Included in that figure are over 117,000 sales by local authorities.

Mr. Knox : Can my hon. Friend say what percentage of the council house stock in Scotland has been sold to sitting tenants and how that compares with the percentage in England? If the former is still lower than the latter, what is my hon. Friend doing to increase sales in Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : First, I can say that the figure is 16.5 per cent. in Scotland and 21.2 per cent. in England. Since my hon. Friend last asked this question, the gap has been closed by 0.1 per cent. I am sure that that percentage will increase. It is very important that public sector sales released more than £1,600 million for other public sector housing in Scotland.

Mr. Ron Brown : Is it not immoral for construction companies in Edinburgh to try to bribe councillor Tom Darby when that councillor has proved his innocence? Is it not wrong that the hon. Gentleman's Government should bribe Barratts to the tune of over £300,000 to develop a site at west Pilton in my constituency? That sum of money has been kept secret-- the Government will not divulge it, but we know it. Why do the Government reek of double standards? The Minister should explain that because many people want an answer.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I think that the hon. Gentleman is trying to ask whether the SDA has made a grant for building renovation in his constituency. I strongly support the SDA's efforts to bring about urban renewal in Scotland, because they have benefited not only the hon. Gentleman's constituents but my own.

Mr. Andrew Welsh : Does the Minister agree that council house purchases can turn into a financial nightmare because of the Government's policy of high mortgage interest rates and because some house construction is fundamentally flawed, such as occurred with the Whitson-Fairhurst houses, even when bought in good faith? The Minister is aware of my constituents who are caught in a financial no-man's-land between Dundee

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