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Column 350district council and the Government who are unwilling to rectify past mistakes. When will the Minister sort out that matter?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : A number of houses have been designated as defective. When people bought public sector houses without the knowledge that they were defective, the Government were duty-bound to be of assistance. The hon. Gentleman's constituents are in a different category, but I will look into the specific case that he mentioned.
Mr. Allan Stewart : Does my hon. Friend the Minister condemn the disgraceful action by Glasgow district council in attempting to deny tenants their statutory rights to buy? Is that not a frightening omen of what might happen under a Labour Government?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Yes. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. More than 14,000 tenants have been encouraged to sign forms stating that they will not exercise the right to buy unless they drop the discount if their houses are improved. The case against the district council has been won, and there the matter rests.
8. Mr. McAvoy : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will allocate to health boards, the resources required to ensure that services for the elderly can be provided entirely within the National Health Service.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : No. The effect of such a proposal would be to end the very valuable role played by voluntary agencies, such as Age Concern Scotland and Scottish Action on Dementia, in the provision of services to the elderly.
Mr. McAvoy : Does the Minister recall his answer at the last Scottish Question Time, when he said that the Glasgow health board had sufficient capital? How does he square that with the health board's statement that its lack of capital forced it not to build a geriatric hospital at Rutherglen? Does he concede that his policy of starving health boards of capital is tantamount to blackmail and forces boards throughout Scotland to bring in private companies which are interested only in profit and not the care of the elderly?
Mr. Forsyth : The hon. Gentleman must be aware that we have a record level of capital spending in the Health Service in Scotland. This year it was £148 million. When the hon. Gentleman's Government were in office, they cut the capital building programme. The Greater Glasgow health board is inviting private sector companies to build facilities for the elderly, one of them in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, which will provide unrivalled standards of care for the elderly. As a result, the board will be able to use its capital budget to carry out further improvements in the Health Service. It recently announced its proposals for consultation, which offer Glasgow the prospect of hospitals that are able to provide the standards of the next century. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that. He has often asked for provision to be made for the elderly in his constituency. That provision is now being made. He should look at the
Column 351example of Takare--there are examples in England--and see for himself the standards of service which are being provided.
Mr. Rathbone : I understand my hon. Friend's answer about the elderly, but will he ensure that sufficient services are provided for the treatment of drug misusers so that they can all be treated within the National Health Service?
Mr. Forsyth : I can certainly reassure my hon. Friend. I am a member of the joint ministerial group that co-ordinates activities in this matter. We have substantially increased expenditure on services for drug abusers and that is very much connected with the fight against the AIDS problem in Scotland, for which we have doubled resources in the past year.
Mr. Dewar : If the Minister answers his case for short-term savings on the capital budget by using firms such as Takare, does he not run the risk of significant increases in revenue expenditure in the longer term, and has that been assessed? Does the Minister accept that there is justified anxiety about geriatric care becoming a profit opportunity in the private sector? In case the Minister gives the stock answer and accuses me of merely reflecting the views of the board's employees--the auxiliaries, nurses and doctors--will he test the opinion of patients, and if appropriate, their families on this issue and the proposal that firms such as Takare should be introduced in a way that will be seen as a move towards privatisation? Will he take account of the trenchant advice offered by his special campaign adviser in Scotland, the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), who told the press recently that the White Paper on the Health Service was doing a great deal of damage and, unless major concessions were given, should be abandoned?
Mr. Forsyth : In respect of the substance of his question, the hon. Gentleman will also know that the Takare proposals provide an opportunity for elderly people, who are perhaps currently using hospital accommodation which is expensive and not suited to their needs, to be looked after in purpose-built facilities of the highest standard. That will result in a revenue saving for the Greater Glasgow health board. There are many examples of elderly people being kept in acute hospitals--where they block beds--at great expense in conditions such as we do not want to see in the Health Service. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) might like to join me in visiting the Takare facilities in the south and judging for himself the standard of care provided.
Mr. Teddy Taylor : May I draw to my hon. Friend's attention the view of many of us that the great unhappiness and distress caused to the elderly and disabled community is due to the shameful misinterpretation of our Health Service proposals? The Minister should concentrate on getting across the facts contained in the proposals. Would he appeal to the Labour party, irrespective of its views on political issues, not to use propaganda to cause misery and unhappiness to sick people?
Mr. Forsyth : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for explaining the position and I agree that the Health Service and health care in our country is so important that it should not be the political football which the Labour party has made it. It is because the Labour party has no positive proposals for the improvement of the Health Service in this country that it has had to resort to misrepresenting our proposals in the way outlined by my hon. Friend.
Mr. Kirkwood : Does the Minister agree that one of the best ways of delivering care to the elderly in future will be by developing a proper system of community care? Does he agree that it is absolutely scandalous that his English counterpart, the Secretary of State for Health, is publishing the White Paper about community care in England tomorrow when no hon. Member will be able to cross-examine him? What steps is he taking to make available to the House his views about the future of community care in Scotland and what resources is he prepared to put behind the provision of those services?
Mr. Forsyth : The hon. Gentleman will know that we have placed considerable emphasis on community care. He will see from the SHARPEN proposals, which were published some time ago, the priority which we give to care for the elderly. The White Paper will be published following a consultation period after our response to the Griffiths report. We certainly intend to take a flexible approach, and it is important that resources are transferred to local authorities to ensure that they play the key role--which they will have in the future--in ensuring proper care in the community.
Mr. Lang : The Ministry of Defence estimates that in 1986-87, the latest period for which estimates are available, some 17,000 people in Scotland were directly employed with contractors supplying equipment to the Ministry of Defence.
disproportionately high contribution that Scottish people have made to the armed forces over the generations, confirms the strong commitment of Scottish people towards the defence of these islands and belies the pacifist attitude of many Opposition Members?
Mr. Lang : I am happy to confirm that. Indeed, 10 per cent. of United Kingdom defence industry employment is to be found in Scotland, which is higher than our share of the population. Scotland has always made a major contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Dunnachie : Does the Minister know that the engineering plant at Shank and Barchead has been threatened with closure and that that closure poses a threat to the defence of the British nation because it is the only engineering plant in Britain that produces a specialist valve for the Royal Navy? Will the Minister use his good offices to ensure that the closure does not take place, thus safeguarding the nation?
Mr. Lang : Commercial decisions of that sort are essentially for the management of the company, but I feel sure that if the valve is as special as the hon. Gentleman has suggested, a way will be found to ensure that it continues to be available to the Ministry of Defence.
Mr. Steel : Will the Minister have a word with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and ensure that an early and favourable decision is made about the award of the radar system for the European fighter aircraft to Ferranti Systems in Edinburgh?
Mr. Lang : The right hon. Gentleman will know that that is not exclusively a matter for the United Kingdom Government ; it requires agreement among the partners in the EFA project. Certainly Ferranti remains in contention, but the matter has yet to be decided.
Mr. Shersby : When my hon. Friend next meets the chairman, will he assure him that the negotiations that are currently taking place in the police arbitration tribunal will be completed before there is any question of reaching a decision or issuing draft regulations on rent allowances?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : We shall certainly go ahead with the negotiations as quickly as possible. An important point for my hon. Friend and for the police officers concerned is that the level of rent allowances for the police will be restored to them and backdated by regulations from 1 April this year. Those regulations will be brought forward as quickly as possible which, I believe, is exactly what the police want.
Sir Hector Monro : Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity when he next meets the chairman of congratulating the chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway and all his police officers, and other Scottish police officers, on their outstanding work in the Lockerbie air disaster investigation? Will he associate himself with the remarks of the Lord Advocate that media speculation is singularly unhelpful in concluding an investigation and does nothing to alleviate the feelings of relatives?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Yes, I agree entirely with my hon. Friend on both counts. The police have been extremely painstaking in the investigation and nothing should be said or done to impede that in any respect.
11. Mr. Strang : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has had any discussion with Ferranti's Scottish group about the necessary financial reconstruction of the company following the acquisition of ISL in the United States of America and its implications for the future of the Scottish economy ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Rifkind : Scottish Office officials are keeping in close touch with senior company management and with other interested Government Departments, and are keeping me very much informed about developments. The Government share the general concern about the future of operations in Scotland and elsewhere, and are taking a great interest in the company's efforts to resolve its present difficulties.
Mr. Strang : Is the Secretary of State aware that the more we learn about the prospective partners or purchasers to whom the Ferranti board is talking, the more worried we become about the thousands of Ferranti jobs in Scotland? Is acquisition by a company such as Singapore Technology seriously being considered? Does the Secretary of State accept that direct equity participation by Thomson CSF could be especially damaging to the highly successful Edinburgh-based operation? Finally, will the Secretary of State make it clear in Cabinet that the final financial settlement must be one that will allow Ferranti to make its substantial contribution to the Scottish economy?
Mr. Rifkind : As the hon. Gentleman knows, a significant number of companies have expressed an interest in a relationship with Ferranti, but it is primarily a matter for the company itself which, of course, is a private sector company. The extent to which there may be a Government interest either in the defence implications or the competition implications of any proposal will fall to be considered only when a particular proposal is put forward for either a merger or an acquisition of Ferranti.
Mr. Darling : Is the Secretary of State aware that a growing number of people in Edinburgh are getting the distinct impression that the Scottish Office is acting like a disinterested spectator of Ferranti's future? Is he aware that the company's future, in defence and as a major component of the electronics industry, is too important to leave to the vagaries of the market place? Should not the Secretary of State and his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry take an active interest in the future of the company and start fighting to get the radar contract? Otherwise we will lose a major chunk of our electronics industry in Edinburgh and in Scotland. Is it not time that the Secretary of State did something about that?
Mr. Rifkind : If the hon. Gentleman really had the interests of the company at heart, he would know that little can do more damage to the interests of the company and to confidence in it than the belief that the Government have had to intervene or should intervene to resolve matters. The company has made it clear that it is not seeking intervention from the Government and it believes that it must be permitted to determine its own future within the normal constraints. If the hon. Gentleman does not believe that, it shows how out of touch he is with the industrial world in which we live.
Mr. Hayward : Does my right hon. and learned Friend find it amazing that Opposition Members stand up and plead on behalf of factories in their constituencies, when the Labour party has voted for a reduction in defence expenditure of as much as one third which would put at risk 7,000 jobs in Scotland alone?
Mr. Rifkind : Those who work in defence industries in Scotland, or in the United Kingdom as a whole, have never been in any doubt about the disastrous implications for their employment of the Labour party coming to office with its old policies, its new policies or any future shred of policy it may care to put before them.
12. Mr. Douglas : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the consequences for local authority manpower and expenditure of the recently announced changes in poll tax payments and exemptions.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The manpower and expenditure consequences of all but one of the amendments to the community charge legislation included in the Local Government and Housing Bill are expected to be minor. The one exception is the transitional relief scheme. The Government have already undertaken to reimburse reasonable administrative costs incurred by local authorities.
Mr. Douglas : Does the Minister have the figures which would show the massive increase in the cost of collecting the poll tax, compared with the rating system, and the massive increase in personnel involved? Will he take time to read yesterday's excellent editorial in The Scotsman, which said that no matter what the Government try to do with the tax, it is becoming a shambles and ought to be completely removed from the statute book?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Of course the collection of the community charge will be more expensive because it applies to more people. Before the hon. Member criticises that form of taxation he should remember what his own environment spokesman had to say. He said :
"The two tax idea had a great deal of merit but when it was approved by the Home Policy Committee I took a lead in expressing concern about the difficulty of selling two taxes".
The hon. Member should also make representations to his own Front Bench.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : Does my hon. Friend think that if the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) is worried about an increase in expenditure on the collection of the tax falling on those who have to pay it, he should obey the law and pay his own?
Column 356that on 1 April there will be a massive increase in the poll tax for my deprived constituency in Castlemilk, while the wealthy citizens of Eastwood, Bearsden and Milngavie may have a cut in their poll tax? Is it not quite absurd, in the year when Glasgow is the city of culture, representing the United Kingdom throughout the world, that the Secretary of State is cutting the amount of money which he will give it?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I am glad to say that this is being sorted out as a matter of urgency. The revised distribution proposals will be issued to COSLA and to local authorities within the next few days. I must make it clear that the figures issued in the statement earlier this week were provisional and that the grant is not payable until next April. Therefore, things will be sorted out quickly.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The A9 has been fully reconstructed between Perth and Inverness to the great benefit of the economy of Inverness and the surrounding areas. I hope to make a statement on an agreed package of further improvements in the near future.
Sir Russell Johnston : Is the Minister aware that the recent spate of accidents on the A9 has caused a great deal of concern? Part of the cause of those accidents must be the road's design--alternate dual and single carriageway, long slow curves where overtaking is difficult and many crossing points. I look forward to hearing the statement that the Minister has promised us.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : We have consulted the hon. Gentleman's chief constable and his regional council and we shall introduce a package of accident remedial measures that could involve signposting, markings on the road and improving its surface in various parts. In the past few weeks I have travelled up and down the A9 to his constituency and, overall, it is an extremely good road. Certain parts of it, however, need urgent attention and that will be put in hand.
With effect from the start of next Session the shuffle will be done by computer, instead of manually as at present. [ Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] Order. I have inspected the new system and I am fully satisfied that it is more efficient than the present arrangements, and, more importantly, equally fair.
If any hon. Member wishes to see the new system in operation, the Table Office will be glad to arrange this.
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