|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 868reply to a parliamentary question some years ago that about 70 per cent. of all inward investment to Scotland was located in the new towns. That achievement speaks for itself. The new towns continue to attract the new sunrise industries on which Ministers place such importance and the case for public sector development corporations is established by their record in that respect. The case for private sector development companies remains to be proven. I am sorry that the Government are motivated by their ideology in all that they do at present.
When he was Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was keen on selling off the new towns. At that time, the right hon. Member for Ayr showed more sense and resisted the winding up of Scottish new towns. He was right then and he would be right now if he were to say that the job for the development corporations remains, and that there is still much to be done in coping with unemployment and creating jobs in the new towns. That is best done by the development corporations, so I am sorry that, with the proposed timescale, the Government are determined to wind up the new town corporations.
By and large, the new towns built quality houses, although some mistakes were undoubtedly made. Some estates were badly planned and we have suffered as a consequence, but, on the whole, good use was made of the green field sites and public confidence in that housing is reflected in the high level of sales in the new towns. I remind the House that the concept of selling houses in new towns did not arrive with Conservative rule. There was always a tenant's right to buy in the new towns. Although undoubtedly the tenants rights legislation changed substantially the terms on which that could be achieved, the principle that houses could be bought always existed.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : I had the good fortune to be at the planning conference of landscape architects at which Cumbernauld was thought up. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is remarkable that there is nothing in any of the new towns that the corporations have built that is ever likely to be listed as something which we should preserve?
Mr. Hogg : I am not in a position to comment on other new towns and I have no doubt that hon. Members who represent other new towns will refer to the issue which the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised. By and large, the houses built in new towns are good and are selling. But I agree that there has been a disappointing lack of buildings of note and I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that we have not done as much as we might have achieved in that sphere.
I am sorry to say that the Government have not, for example, given the green light to a proposal by Cumbernauld and Kilsyth district council to build a proper civic centre for the town to replace the nasty prefabricated local town hall that was built by a previous SNP administration, the members of which have joined with the Tories in opposing the proposal to build a proper civic centre. We expect that of the SNP in Cumbernauld, though I assure the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), lest he attacks me, that I do not associate him with the SNP in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.
There remains a case for new building. The lifting of the moratorium on new town building for which the Minister of State was responsible did not create the conditions to
Column 869resolve the continuing problem of young people being able to find a home in the town in which they were born and raised.
Today in Cumbernauld there is a waiting list of 1,230. We have 37 single parents without homes and 325 single persons and 183 engaged couples on the waiting list. Indeed, 545 young people who were born and bred in the new town are unable to find homes there. They are not able to find a way into the private sector because of high interest rates, low pay and youth unemployment. That is why there is a strong case for a public sector new build programme.
Another problem for tenants is that the proposals in the Bill do not say that tenants will be given the choice of having the district council as their landlord, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) pointed out. I cannot understand the Minister's reluctance to offer such a choice. I understood that even under the new regime in Chester street--under the proposals of some strange people who have taken it on themselves to run the Conservative party and who are insisting on a peculiar ideology of their own--the Tories were in favour of choice.
We are simply asking that district councils be included in the choice available to tenants. If the Minister cannot assure us tonight that that choice will be written into the Bill, my hon. Friends and I will table amendments to that end in Committee. Such a refusal by the Minister would ignore opinion in the new towns. It would be wrong for the Government to ignore public opinion on an issue as basic and important as the future ownership of people's homes, and I hope that he will change his mind about what is proposed.
On the local government side, I note that the planning function is to go to district councils. That important shift is to be welcomed because, whatever may have been the achievements of the development corporations in attracting jobs and investment, they have not been popular as landlords and planning authorities. Indeed, we continue to face problems over their responsibilities in those respects, as other hon. Members who represent new towns will agree.
That is why we welcome the proposal to place planning matters in the hands of district councils. May we be told how and when the planning function will be transferred to district councils and whether financial assistance will be available for receiving authorities which will have to increase staffing levels to deal with the new responsibilities? Perhaps the Minister will answer those points when he replies to the debate or give an assurance that he will answer them in Committee.
The Bill is curiously silent on what is to happen to existing employees. In previous measures--for example, those which dealt with the reorganisation of local government--the interests of staff were clearly defined. Those provisions served Scotland well because proper arrangements could be made for the transfer of staff.
What arrangements will be made in this case for the continued employment of staff where functions are transferred? Will any of the arrangements that were employed in, say, local government reorganisation be introduced in this case? In other words, will arrangements be made to ring-fence the staff and will assurances be given
Column 870that on wind-up staff will be absorbed in local authorities which take on additional functions? What arrangements will exist for severance payments, superannuation, pensions and so on?
I have been asking questions in wide terms rather than specifically because I appreciate that the Minister may have difficulty in answering them tonight.
Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend is right to say that they are important, and at some stage they must be answered. If necessary, I shall table probing amendments to discover exactly what will happen to the staff. It is important that they are maintained in employment, right up to the point of wind-up, and a continuing job will remain to be done. It would not be in the interests of the new towns if skilled teams were lost. I warn the Minister that if he does not answer my questions tonight or if we do not receive satisfactory replies in Committee, I shall write seeking a meeting with him on these important issues. I do not like what is being proposed for the new towns. It flies in the face of what new town dwellers and workers have expected and planned for in the last 40 years. Indeed, it flies in the face of all that was envisaged by those who pioneered the new towns idea and who went to live in new towns in the early days.
I am sorry that once again the Government have founded their views on their strange ideology to such an extent that they deny people choice. That is carrying matters too far. I would go as far as to say that the Bill reduces tenants' rights. As I understand it, that is not what the Government would describe as one of their objectives in previous legislation. I believe that the Bill's proposals place at risk the continuing economic achievements of the new towns and for that reason I shall oppose the Bill.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North) : I welcome the Bill. That will not surprise my colleagues on the Front Bench or Opposition Members. It is wise to integrate training and the economic regeneration of the two parts of Scotland covered by the two development agencies--the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the Scottish Development Agency. I also welcome the fact that we shall control training in Scotland because the special Scottish aspects of training must be addressed.
The House and anyone who cares about what happens in Scotland must consider the awful fact that we have unemployment in some areas yet in others there is an enormous skills shortage. That shows that things have not been done right over many years. There will be a skills shortage because demographic changes will result in a 20 per cent. fall in the number of 18 to 24-year- olds by 1995. That is only five years away. Through the vehicle of the Bill and by the changes that we hope to make when it becomes law, we must address that problem.
The House will know that I recently spent a little time looking into the plight of the cardboard community in London. I was particularly interested in the position of
Column 871teenagers, although one could spend much time talking about other groups. The nation must face the fact that the family unit as many of us knew it when we were growing up is not the unit that is common today. It is breaking up in front of our eyes. More families are noted for breaking up than for stability. That has resulted in many teenagers leaving home. I shall not go into the reasons why they leave home ; it is simply a fact that they do so. Some leave because they can no longer accept the conditions in their family home and others do so because they will not accept discipline from their parents. So they find themselves out in the big world.
Earlier today we heard of a pregnant 16-year-old who was looking for a house. We must address the problems of such people. It is no good saying that they should not happen because they do. I have some ideas about what we should do about them. It will be within your memory, Mr. Speaker, and that of other hon. Members that at one time large firms, particularly in London, had hostels to encourage young people to come to London to be trained to work in the company. That was before the second world war and immediately afterwards. Sadly, in the 1960s most of those hostels disappeared. If we still had them today at least we should have an opportunity to provide some sort of accommodation for young people.
Young people migrate mainly to large towns and cities, whether London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee or wherever, because they think that the opportunities to find work and accommodation will be greater. I should like the enterprise companies to encourage large and medium-sized firms there to provide hostel accommodation. Companies in my constituency tell me that they are desperate for young people but that there is no accommodation for them. I should like to think that the new training and enterprise companies would put together a package whereby the private sector, assisted by public funding, would find a way of providing hostel accommodation linked to a training commitment.
We should take the opportunity that the Bill provides carefully to consider skills training. For too long we have not considered it in sufficient depth. In the 1960s I played a part in establishing the training boards and I was proud of what we did. I was saddened at the way in which the boards drifted away from their original purpose of training. I, and others who were keen in the beginning, grew disillusioned. That is no reason for saying that we were wrong in what we attempted to do in the 1960s. If we had got it right, we should not today be facing problems of skills shortages.
We must ask why the taxpayer is prepared to pay for those who have the ability and good fortune to go into higher education. The taxpayer picks up the cost of all their training and education, yet any young individual who has tactile skills--the type of skills that are required for skilled work-- does not receive the same support from the taxpayer. In recent years there has been the development of employment training, which now lasts for two years. As a result of the changes made by the Bill, we should develop three -year skills training programmes through the enterprise companies. If we do that and fund them properly, we shall effectively give every youngster the option of skills training or higher education.
By skills training I do not necessarily mean the narrow, highly technical skills but all skills. People who go into shopkeeping need good communications and human relations skills. We certainly need to develop human
Column 872relations skills because such skills are sadly lacking. We must also develop management skills. Managing people is a highly developed skill and, sadly, that is another area in which we have not enhanced our reputation in the past 40 years. I should like skills training in its widest sense to be encouraged at all levels and the enterprise companies and new enterprise agencies to be developed.
I notice that the Government have set a target of 12 enterprise companies. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State was right when he said that many individuals had come forward for these enterprise companies. I may add that the 12 companies will be in the Scottish Development Agency area. I apologise to the House if my main interest lies in the SDA area, but that is where my constituency is. It is not in the Highlands and Islands area although people in the Highlands area of my constituency say that it should be, because of the advantages, whether real or imagined, that exist in the Highlands.
Dr. Godman : The hon. Gentleman spoke about industrial training boards. Was not Mr. Robert Carr persuaded to introduce the Industrial Training Act 1964 because industrial firms refused to train their work forces? What sanctions can be used now, by way of the Bill, against such firms? The Bill will not be amended in Committee because the Government do not like to accept fair-minded criticism of their Bills. What sanctions can be used to persuade firms to train people instead of poaching them from other firms? May I also point out to the hon. Gentleman that unemployment and skills shortages can occur side by side?
Mr. Walker : I thought that I had made it clear that I realise that unemployment and skill shortages can occur cheek by jowl. I also understand the problems that companies face when the people whom they have trained are poached. I always thought that reflected on the training schemes that I ran in the companies for which I was responsible, and I never looked upon it as a down side. The benefit, I always thought, was that one kept the really good people. That was my experience, although I cannot speak for other organisations. I am not as keen on imposing sanctions as I am on providing an environment in which people are encouraged to participate. The changing of attitudes is very important. We need to bring together enterprise, with which the SDA has been involved, and the Training Agency so that we can create arrangements that encourage both enterprise and training. The two have not always moved in tandem, and that has been part of the problem.
Had the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) been listening carefully, he would know that I suggested that training be paid for from the public purse. That may astonish him, coming from me, but I have advocated that throughout my adult life. I never understood why, if one went to university, the public picked up the cost, whereas if one wanted to be an engineer--the nation is desperately short of engineers--the cost of one's training must be borne entirely by one's industry or company. That has never struck me as a sensible use of national resources.
I regard the Bill as an opportunity to bring together the aims for which I have worked and to try to ensure that we train young people for the world of today and tomorrow. That is much more important than all the nonsense that is
Column 873talked and all the charades about defending jobs that should have gone a long time ago in industries that are out of date and no longer competitive. We should be encouraging the sunrise industries and encouraging young people to go into them. We must also encourage people to go to work where there are opportunities. In my constituency, that means going to work in tourism, and that is why I am so interested in the service sector, in which human relations skills are vital.
The Bill will bring together two essential parts of Scotland's development and future. We shall have to consider the details of the Bill in Committee, but I welcome the principles behind it. 7.12 pm
Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute) : I listened to the Secretary of State using the same enthusiastic rhetoric this afternoon as he used in his statement on 26 July last year in enlarging on his plans for the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the Scottish Development Agency. I am acutely aware, however, of the existence of clause 21, which allows for the dissolution of the SDA and the HIDB. Many of us still ask why that has to be the case. The Secretary of State has not yet made it clear why that has to happen, while the Bill is vague and imprecise and gives no idea of how the new agencies will work better than the old.
Why are the Government getting rid of the well-known and much-respected names of the agency and the board? Is it normal practice in the business world to drop a brand name that has proved itself and sold well? Time, money and effort are spent in establishing a name with which customers identify and in the private sector, particularly, the protection of names is considered to be a top priority. To substitute for the SDA and HIDB a phrase containing the overworked and desperately boring word "enterprise" shows a lamentable lack of understanding and foresight.
We have heard fulsome praise, and rightly so, for the work of the SDA from the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). But everyone should be aware that the agency has gone through a period of uncertainty and that, as a result, the work force is severely demoralised. Programmes have not gone ahead and the number of staff who have left since 1987 gives great cause for concern. There is no doubt that we are talking about a politically determined change of direction. To achieve that change of direction, the Government are destroying instead of building on what is already there. The suspicion remains that the Bill is a move by the Government to get their own placemen into the structure. By selling the public assets of the SDA in a headlong ideological venture, the Government will reduce the influence of the public sector and benefit the few private business men in Scotland who still support them.
As the hon. Member for Ayr said, the SDA is the envy of many in England and has also been studied by many Europeans. It is admired for its flexibility, independence, creativity and effectiveness. The danger is that the Government are throwing it out in the interests of achieving short-term political goals.
We have heard much about training, and a highly skilled and competent work force is crucial for the economic and cultural well-being of Scotland. I, too,
Column 874welcome the transfer of decisions about training from Sheffield, but the Secretary of State has still to reassure us that there will, indeed, be full devolution of responsibility for training from the Department of Employment to the Scottish Office. There must be no suspicion that the Department of Employment is resisting the long overdue decentralisation or blocking what the Secretary of State admits should be a Scottish solution to meet Scottish needs. The Government have not yet established a satisfactory case for the merger of the SDA with the Training Agency. Organisationally it is a horrendous prospect, but if it must go ahead, it must boost the role of training in economic development and hasten the process of urban renewal, as well as encouraging a more dynamic and innovative approach to training. It is vital that the deployment of Training Agency staff should be decentralised. I am still not confident that our business men and women will want to become agents for administering Government training schemes for any length of time. The Government are placing a disproportionate emphasis on the need for the private sector to take the lead in the management and design of training. We need a review of existing training schemes to see whether they are suitable for Scotland's training needs.
We need more effective training for trainers. The experience of the youth training scheme and the employment training scheme shows that the quality and professional competence of trainers varies enormously. Equally important is the need for effective monitoring of training standards. The provision for the inspection of training agencies is absurdly small and can give scope for abuse.
The Secretary of State himself paid tribute to the work of the HIDB. Will the Minister of State explain how the HIDB warrants such a wholesale upheaval? It has already devolved its work and personnel, it has been serving the Highlands and Islands well over the past 25 years, and it has been keeping in close touch with the people. Why try to mend it when it is not broken?
Is the Secretary of State confident that local enterprise companies will be truly representative of the various geographical localities and businesses, including crofting and farming? Is he confident that the best of our business men and women will again want to be agents for administering Government training schemes and that small businesses will be properly represented? The majority must devote all their time and energy to keeping their own businesses going in the face of continuing high interest rates. Is the Secretary of State confident that local enterprise company representatives will travel hundreds of miles to attend meetings and to perform public services without remuneration ; that board members will not reject applications if they consider them to be in competition with their own businesses ; and that confidentiality, particularly of business accounts, will always be observed?
Is it not anomalous that agencies are intended to serve the needs of local communities, yet the Government's proposals contain no provision for accountability to them? Will the Secretary of State consider a substructure in large rural areas? Will he consider my constituency of Argyll and Bute, in which local enterprise companies are to represent Argyll and Bute, Arran and the Cumbraes? It is a vast area. It will be extremely difficult to have frequent meetings. The needs of Bute are quite different from those of Lochgilphead.
Column 875The Secretary of State talked about an increase in the population of the Highlands and Islands. He was correct, but he should not be misled. That increase did not occur because the indigenous people are staying and multiplying or because they are returning in droves. On the contrary ; too many local people have been forced to leave because they cannot compete for housing, farms and crofts. They cannot compete with newcomers with overflowing wallets. Is the Minister aware that in many villages in Scotland one would be hard-pushed to hear a Scottish voice? That trend will eventually take its toll on the tourist industry.
It is clear that people in the new towns fear that the Government are riding roughshod over residents' freedom to choose the sort of organisation to which they wish to belong. The Bill does not give tenants a statutory right to transfer to a relevant district council. Many residents face an uncertain future. They do not trust the private sector to safeguard their interests. Nor does the Bill contain an obligation to address the needs of homeless people in new towns. There are still far too many homeless people.
Because of its vague and superficial nature, the Bill leaves many important questions unanswered. The Government are resorting to a simple-minded, dogmatic and impracticable solution. The Bill will be passed because the Government have a majority, but they must not kid themselves that it has been greeted enthusiastically everywhere. People in my area say, "Well, it is coming." I say, "It is coming, and we must make the best of it." They shrug their shoulders and are sceptical. The Bill will not help Scottish people by creating the environment, the infrastructure, the skills and the opportunities that will encourage them to live and work in their own area. 7.25 pm
Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood) : The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) will not expect me to echo her remarks, particularly those about her own constituency. No one is suggesting that the Highlands and Islands Development Board is not doing a good job. What is suggested is a change of structure to incorporate the economic regeneration functions of the HIDB and the Scottish Development Agency with the functions of the Training Agency. When the White Paper was published, the SDA warmly welcomed Scottish Enterprise and the fundamental proposal that training and development functions should be integrated.
The Opposition's amendment is disappointing. It is much more negative than the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). He said, "We want reassurances about this and we want to explore points about that," and so on. His speech contained many markers for the Committee. However, the hon. Gentleman failed to mount a coherent argument for a rejection of the proposals. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State mentioned some points of general principle that have been taken by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. COSLA states that the general objective of integrating the Government's support for training and for enterprise creation is welcomed by the convention. The convention went on to state that local authorities have been committed to this approach in practice for some time.
Column 876criticism in the form of reasonable amendments. Ministers are almost always hostile to the honestly awkward critics as well as to the awkwardly honest critics in the House.
Mr. Stewart : The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) has said that he is not prepared to consider proposals on their own merits. Sitting next to him is the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg). During the Comittee's deliberations on the Scottish education Bill, about 13 of his amendments were agreed as a result of reasoned argument with the Government. It is highly possible that the Bill will be amended in Committee.
Will the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) confirm that the approach to the subject that the Scottish local authorities maintain they have been adopting for some years is wrong? On behalf of the Labour party, will he say officially that the approach taken by COSLA and local authorities to the basic principle of integration is completely wrong? I suspect that he will not do so as he is in conversation with his Whip rather than listening to the debate.
I welcome the principle of the Bill for a number of reasons. Training is likely to be more and more important in the process of economic regeneration. Let us consider the recent changes in eastern Europe and think not of the political consequences but of the economic consequences. We all hope that those changes result in eastern European economies becoming more integrated with those of the European Community. Eastern Europe has rejected state Socialism and is moving towards the capitalist West. That means that there will be a whole range of new countries competing with Scotland, something that we should all welcome. At least, initially, they will be low-wage countries--but they will be competitors for inward investment. That is an additional reason why we must emphasise our strengths, and the greatest strength that we have is the skills of our people.
The hon. Member for Garscadden took a different line on resources from that of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie. If this morning's Glasgow Herald is correctly quoting his views, the hon. Member for Garscadden accepts that the Bill does not propose any change in the level of resources for the joint bodies, although he is arguing for a commitment to more resources. That is a perfectly reasonable position to take. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie puts forward the quite different notion that the Bill inevitably means a cut in resources to the new organisations. It does not.
The hon. Member for Garscadden referred to the boundaries for the local enterprise companies in west central Scotland. I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on their decision to reject the approach by the Glasgow consortium to change the boundaries in the greater Glasgow area. I hope that the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie agrees, as the proposals created as much criticism in Clydebank and Milngavie as they did in Eastwood. The consortium was entitled to put forward those proposals, but there was a strong reaction against them. If my right hon. and hon. Friends had taken the other course open to them, there would have been considerable disruption to the existing plans for those areas. The fact that it would have meant a split in my own constituency is perhaps a parochial point
Column 877--there were wider considerations than that- -but my right hon. and learned Friend knows the reaction from the Eastwood district council and we congratulate him on a sensible and swift decision that ended what would otherwise have been a period of uncertainty.
As always, the Scottish economy faces a period of change. It must adjust to the changes resulting not only from the single European market but from demographic factors. The number of 18 to 24-year-olds in Scotland is estimated to fall by about 20 per cent. by 1995. That is an additional reason to concentrate on improving our skills. I join hon. Members on both sides of the House in paying tribute to the new towns. They have been a dynamic and progressive force for change in the Scottish economy. We all accept that new towns cannot be new towns for ever ; eventually they must revert to being the same type of community as other towns in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Garscadden is right to say that many points need to be explored in Committee. However, that is not the point of this debate, which is about the principle of the Bill, and on the principle there can be no doubt about how the House should vote. 7.35 pm
Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South) : Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I oppose the principle of the Bill and will vote against it. The whole concept of the Bill was introduced when an idea entered the head of Bill Hughes, a director of Grampian Holdings and a vice-chairman of the Conservative party. He used that idea to attack public sector organisations such as the Scottish Development Agency and the Highlands and Islands Development Board and to give a private sector lead to training and industrial regeneration in Scotland. Unfortunately, he took his idea to the Prime Minister, who was heard to say, "As Bill is one of us, I shall support it." It is unfortunate that as soon as the Prime Minister supported the concept our weak Secretary of State for Scotland was forced to accept the whole principle of the Bill.
I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) welcomed the principle of the Bill. I thought that at one time he was giving the funeral oration for the Scottish Development Agency, which will be killed by the Bill. I am willing to bet that if the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Scotland, the Bill would not be introduced now. He would have followed the policy decision of his colleague the Secretary of State for Wales to separate the Welsh Development Agency from the training facilities. I congratulate the Secretary of State for Wales on maintaining his independence. I am disappointed in the Secretary of State for Scotland and his Minister of State for just accepting the diktat of a person who has never shown any interest outside his own during his whole period as head of an industrial establishment in Scotland.
That is nothing new. Not only is the vice-chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland dictating to the Secretary of State, but the chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland is inside the Scottish Office as a junior Minister. However, I do not want to embarrass you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by mentioning the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) after all the trouble that the House has had today. The Bill has been designed by two people
Column 878who do not represent the people of Scotland or the decent Conservatives--if there are any in Scotland--who will be affected by the Bill.
I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) say that there is a movement of officials and employees out of the Scottish Development Agency,. They are not moving out of the Scottish Development Agency because they are confident about their futures when the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. I have found as a Member of Parliament--I am sure that this applies to my
colleagues--that when one tries to contact officials or employees of the Scottish Development Agency about various matters, I am told, "We are sorry, Mr. Lambie, that person is no longer here". People are taking early retirement or moving on into the private sector to take advantage of the facilities that will be afforded to the private sector when the Bill is enacted. Those in the Scottish Development Agency show no confidence in their futures, and neither will the employees of the Highlands and Islands Development Board. Indeed, I am willing to bet--and I am not usually a betting man--that if the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, Iain Robertson, the chief executive of the Scottish Development Agency, will also move on to new pastures. Knowing him in the past and his work both as a civil servant and as the chief executive of the SDA, I am certain that he will not put up with what will happen to the SDA when it is downgraded if the Bill is enacted.
To whom are we handing over the future industrial and training policies of Scotland? The answer is to the private sector--to the people who in the past have let down the people of Scotland over their industrial base and training facilities. Not so long ago Scotland and Scottish industry depended for its skilled craftsmen on our heavy industries. Unfortunately, we have few heavy industries left. Many of my hon. Friends represent shipbuilding or former shipbuilding constituencies. In the small town of Ardrossan, near where I stay, the Ardrossan shipyard is now closed. Every year it used to take on 100 apprentices and put out 100 skilled craftsmen to help the new companies coming into the area. The shipyards produced the skills, but they no longer exist and those that are still in operation no longer train apprentices. The same applies to the steel industry, the heavy engineering industry and the chemical industry. The people who will man Scottish Enterprise and the local enterprise companies are the very people who at present are not prepared to train in their own companies. That is a general statement and there are one or two exceptions to it. I refer, for example, to the chairman designate of my local enterprise company, the Ayrshire enterprise company Mr. John Hornibrook, the works director of Roche of Dalry, a man who has spent his entire life trying to get the companies in Ayrshire to put money into training, without much success. Although there are one or two exceptions, the majority of people appointed to Scottish Enterprise and to the local enterprise companies such as those in Ayrshire will be appointed by the Government. Yes, they will be Government appointees, placemen of the Conservative Government, appointed to carry out the Conservative Government's policies.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Ayr is no longer in his place. I hope that the Minister of State will not appoint to the Ayrshire enterprise board some of the right hon. Gentleman's friends because as far as I can see they are not interested in training. Most of them are
Column 879interested only in the honours list and in whether they will get the CBE or the OBE, which will be just another arm to their careers and reputations.
The only way in which we can achieve anything in training is by giving companies serious financial incentives to carry out their training obligations. We should also apply severe financial penalties to those companies which do not carry out their responsibilities, but which poach from companies that have spent money on training. If we do that, we shall make progress.
Both private and public industry should carry out their training functions and increase the number of their skilled craftsmen. However, they should do so without being incorporated into this new Government organisation.
Dr. Godman : I sympathise with my hon. Friend's serious reservations about privately led employment and training initiatives, because the Inverclyde Initiative, which is a privately led initiative, has done little or nothing for the people of the lower Clyde.
Mr. Lambie : I agree with my hon. Friend because I have experienced Taskforce and local enterprise groups. Because of the serious decline of employment potential in my area, I have always been a leader in trying to get some new Government initiatives. The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) knows that when he served at the Scottish Office he helped me to set up the Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston enterprise initiative, which did little for the people in the area. However, such organisations certainly provided a lot of jobs for the people who will now be looking for jobs in the new organisations. It was always a case of jobs for the boys.
I shall vote against the Second Reading because the Government have included in the Bill their provisions to wind up Scotland's new town development corporations. Why? It seems strange that this Bill has two sections. One deals with the future of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, the Scottish Development Agency and the Training Agency, but that is joined with the provisions to wind up the new town development corporations in Scotland. Why are the Government doing that? The answer is because they do not have enough Tory Members of Parliament to man the Committees on two Bills. The Ministers are punch-drunk with not only defending themselves against the likes of Bill Hughes and the hon. Member for Stirling, but with defending themselves against the people of Scotland also. Two totally different subjects are being taken together in one Bill because the people of Scotland are not prepared to vote for Tory candidates. If by some unfortunate chance after the next election the people of southern England vote Conservative again and we have another Tory Government in the United Kingdom, we can honestly say that there will be no Tory Members of Parliament representing Scotland. What will the Government do then? How will they man the Committees? What about the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? The Government are in difficulties now, but they will certainly be in difficulties later if by some unfortunate chance the people in southern England are still as stupid as they have been during the past three general elections.
I represent the new town of Irvine. The people there are asking about what will happen to their housing when the new town development corporation disappears. My development corporation of Irvine will disappear in 1999
Column 880and I shall be lucky if I am around then. I shall certainly not be the Member of Parliament for Cunninghame, South then. By that time there will have been at least two general elections and we will have the possibility of a Labour Government. I say to the people in East Kilbride and Cumbernauld, whose new town development corporations are to be wound up quicker, that they might be caught before we have a new Labour Government, but by the time Irvine new town is wound up there will be a Labour Government and therefore the legislation being passed tonight will not apply to my area. The people in my area are asking what will happen to the houses that are still tenanted. There are more than 5,000 houses in Irvine new town : just over 1,000 have been sold and we are left with 4,000 tenanted houses.
Mr. Lambie : I shall listen to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, carry on and never mind the interjections by those who have just come in. The hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) was one of the best members of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs when I was its Chairman because he always did what he was told. The people of Irvine are asking what will happen to those houses. I was interested that in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram), the right hon. Member for Ayr looked down at his colleagues on the Front Bench and said that people in the new towns would surely be given the opportunity of choosing to go to their local district councils. In my case that would be Cunninghame district council. The Minister did not look, nod or give any sign of agreement with the previous Secretary of State for Scotland. Unlike my hon. Friends, I will not wait until this matter is discussed in Standing Committee. If the right hon. Member for Ayr was correct and the Government are to give the tenants a choice of going to their local district councils, I want the Minister to say now that his right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr was correct.
Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde) : My hon. Friend makes an important point. I assure him that I know what the Minister's answer will be. When the Scottish Special Housing Association existed, we constantly asked the Minister to give the SSHA tenants the right to ballot to decide whether they wanted to go to the SSHA or to their local authority. If that had happened in Linwood, Erskine or such places the folk would have voted overwhelmingly to go to their district councils.
Mr. Lambie : My hon. Friend makes a valid point. When the right hon. Member for Ayr was Secretary of State for Scotland he gave the guarantee that when the Scottish Special Housing Association was wound up the houses would be handed over to the local authorities. Previous Secretaries of State from both the Labour and Conservative parties said the same. We know that Scottish
Column 881Homes was set up to replace the Scottish Special Housing Association and the Minister of State, Scottish Office, who is present, reneged on the agreement and a private company was set up to administer the houses of the Scottish Special Housing Association. The people in the new town houses are afraid because Scottish Homes not only gives people the right to buy their homes, which the Labour party accepts, but has the right to sell houses on the open market when they become vacant. Therefore, instead of a reduction in the housing waiting list in the Cunninghame area--which is now more than 4,000, with just under 1,000 in the new town--homelessness is increasing as Scottish Homes begins to sell houses that were formerly in the rented sector.
In a survey carried out by the Scottish Office, 59 per cent. of the people of Irvine said that, given the choice, they would rather be tenants of Cunninghame district council. Only 7 per cent. said that, at the wind-up of the corporations, they wanted to be tenants of Scottish Homes. Yet the Government are to transfer, against the wishes of the people, houses to Scottish Homes if they have not been sold off to some other private enterpriser. I speak on behalf of the tenants of the IDC houses in the new town of Irvine and ask the Government to ensure that tenants of the houses that remain at the wind-up, which I hope will never come because by that time we will have a Labour Government, will be given the choice to go to their local district council.
Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford) : The Bill contains the most important reforms of training and economic development since 1974, when the Manpower Services Commission was established, and since 1975, when the Scottish Development Agency was established. The Scottish Development Agency was established by a Labour Government, so it was refreshing when the incoming Conservative Government of 1979 did not abolish it, as was widely expected. Instead, they adopted, adapted and developed it in a way that showed flair and proved extremely successful. Perhaps that shows that the party divide then was not as great as it is now, which is fitting.
As has been generally recognised on both sides of the House, the SDA has been a success. It has a high reputation both inside and outside Scotland, and has an imaginative and dedicated staff. One reason for that success has been that it has moved away from a policy of throwing money at lame ducks and moved instead towards being vigorous and successful in helping Scotland to develop its sunrise, rather than sunset, industries.
Speaking as a Member for an English constituency, albeit a Scottish Member- -
Mr. Arbuthnot : I was making the point that the SDA has moved away from that policy and towards different policies encouraging the new industries that Scotland has needed, rather than trying to throw money at the dying industries of coal and steel.
Mr. Arbuthnot : I have not made it up. The SDA has moved towards the new industries that Scotland will need to rely on in future. England does not have a similar agency to the Scottish Development Agency, which has caused some envy in English circles. It does not have an organisation fighting for English enterprise, and perhaps it should. Clearly it is right that the responsibility for training in Scotland should be devolved in Scotland. That proposal is not opposed by any hon. Member. Training should not be dealt with in Sheffield as it is now, and there can be no argument about that.
The question then arises as to where training should be dealt with in Scotland. The advantages of transferring the responsibility for training to the Scottish Development Agency are considerable. A single organisation, providing an integrated system of enterprise promotion and training, is more likely to produce the skills that business men need than would a separate body.
Another problem is that the demographic decline as a result of the end of the post-war baby boom--I lay claim to being part of that boom--will cause an extreme shortage of skills in Scotland. In the United Kingdom we are facing a shortage of skills which, unfortunately, is not faced by our competitors. That makes it all the more important that we should enhance the skills of the young people whom we have, quite apart from any natural desire to do that in any event.
It is vital that the training of our young people should be inextricably linked to the jobs that they will be required to do. It is right to transfer responsibility for that training to Scotland and to the body most closely concerned with investment in Scottish enterprise, and to treat the training not just as another investment but as the most important investment in Scottish enterprise. For that reason the general secretary of the Scottish TUC welcomed the integration of training and development, and it is hardly surprising that the chairman of the Scottish Development Agency said :
"We welcome, we endorse and support the visions and the principles in the White Paper. The SDA is throwing its full weight behind Scottish Enterprise and, in particular, the proposals that training and the development function should be integrated."
Mr. Graham : Does the hon. Gentleman realise that there is to be no new money for training in Scotland, yet private industry has an appalling record on training and the creation of apprenticeship? Not long ago the Evening Times, a well-known Glasgow paper, carried an article on the serious problems to be found in training schemes run by private companies. They were a disaster. One of my constituents, who is supposed to be training for his HGV licence, has been running about as a chauffeur, carrying private employers all over the place. That is not what he should be doing. We need new money to ensure that training can happen and that apprenticeships develop. Private industry will not lead the way. We need to see a better input from the Government.