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Column 302spending about £54 million on environmental renewal projects. A total of 2,500 land renewal projects have been carried out in the last decade.
Mr. Rifkind : The Government have launched a major initiative to deal with deprivation in Scotland's peripheral housing schemes, working with local people, the private sector and other public bodies. Good progress is being made.
Mr Wray : When I look at the statistics and remember that the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys has not done a survey of child poverty since 1981, I fail to understand that reply. The present indicators, which are available on the data base of the statistical section of the Library, show that Glasgow has the highest average rate of poverty in the nation. I should like to know what the Minister, having frozen child benefit, imposed the poll tax and made cuts in other benefits, intends to do about it.
Mr. Rifkind : No one doubts that for many years there have been serious problems of poverty in certain areas of Glasgow. The hon. Gentleman should acknowledge that the renaissance that Glasgow is widely recognised to have enjoyed over the last 10 years has been for the benefit of all the people of Glasgow, including the hon. Gentleman's constituents. He should pay tribute to that development.
Sir Hector Monro : Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the urban aid programme has been a great success not only in the major and inner cities but in country towns such as Dumfries? Will he do all that he can to encourage urban aid, towards improving not only the quality of housing, but the quality of life in those areas?
Mr. Rifkind : Yes. We have provided for a massive increase in the urban programme this year and for a further major increase next year. The programme is a successful way of reaching those pockets of poverty that still exist in many of our towns and communities. Therefore, it is right to concentrate through the urban programme the kind of support that can help to transform people's lives, their housing and employment opportunities, and the quality of life that they quite properly wish to enjoy.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Changes that have been made to the community charge, including the transitional relief scheme and the widening of the exemption for people who are severely mentally impaired, should have had virtually no effect on the community charge levels determined by local authorities for 1990-91.
Column 303sections of the population. Those of us who seek to stand by those people, by withholding our payments, represent a very respectable tradition in Scottish democracy. We are in the season of Burns and I should like to paraphrase the great man. I put to the Government : "They'd break our backs for Maggie's tax, Such a parcel of rogues in a nation." The Government's policy will destroy the Union because the people of Scotland will not accept this unfair, unjust and undemocratic tax for which they did not vote.
Mr. Douglas rose --
Mr. Douglas rose --
Mr. Speaker Order. The hon. Gentleman must sit down.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : When the law reforming warrant sales went through the House in the last Parliament, neither the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) nor any Opposition Member voted against that legislation which removed the most objectionable features of the system. The hon. Gentleman spoke about unfairness. It was monstrously unfair when only 40 per cent. paid rates and that system could not possibly endure. The hon. Gentleman overlooks the fact that well over 1 million people in Scotland are receiving rebates which are of great assistance to them. The reforms on transitional relief should in due course benefit up to 500,000 people.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I can tell my hon. Friend that those on income support receive 80 per cent. rebate and that their income support has been increased to take account of the fact that they have to pay the other 20 per cent. There have been reforms, and when anomalies arise we shall take steps to make sure that they are ironed out and removed, as we have done with difficulties arising for people with Alzheimer's disease.
Mr. Maxton : Will the Minister confirm that the transitional relief scheme that the Government introduced with great publicity last year will help only 10 per cent. of poll tax payers in Scotland and that the average rate per qualifier will be £25 a year or 50p a week? Was it not all
Column 304just one massive con trick designed to delude the people of Scotland into believing that the poll tax was fair? Does he appreciate that the only way in which he can help the poor in Scotland is to get rid of the iniquitous 20 per cent. minimum payment as the first step towards getting rid of this grossly unfair tax?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The fact that up to 500,000 people will benefit is not something to be sneered at in any respect. Labour Members should set an example by paying the community charge rather than saying that they will defy the law.
Mr. Leigh : Does the Minister agree that those figures show the success of the Conservatives in recruiting considerably more doctors, dentists and nurses due not least to the fact that we have increased nurses' pay by 43 per cent. over and above inflation and doctors' pay by 36 per cent. over and above inflation, compared with a cut of 21 per cent. in real terms under the last Labour Government? Does he further agree that that shows that we not only have the will to improve the NHS but that, unlike Labour Members, we provide the ways and means to ensure that it is improved?
Mr. Forsyth : I agree, and my hon. Friend is right to point out that there are more nurses and doctors in the Health Service. He is also right to point out that not only have we recruited more nurses and doctors and increased their pay over and above inflation, but we have reduced the working week for nurses and introduced a system of grading that ensures that nurses are able to pursue their careers while maintaining contact with the patient. That is a record of which to be proud and one which the Labour party cannot hold a candle to.
Mr. Bill Walker : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that following the altercation that we had some moments ago, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) has now left the Chamber, having made use of the television cameras-- [Interruption.] Is that not an abuse of the rules of the House--
Mr. Watson : Now that the Minister has answered the shamefully planted question from the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh)--who has never seen the inside of a Scottish hospital in his life and is never likely to--may I ask the Minister to deal with the current issue? Will he comment on the fact that there is now no dietician at Gartnavel hospital in Glasgow to deal with diabetic patients as a result of the cuts that have been made in the NHS in Scotland? Will he address that problem, which is a day-to-day issue that my constituents are bringing to me?
Column 305Mr. Forsyth : If the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the position in a particular post, he should take that up with the general manager of the Greater Glasgow health board, who I am sure will be able to offer an explanation. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here when my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) pointed out that as a result of the programme of competitive tendering, which the hon. Gentleman opposed, Greater Glasgow health board is recruiting additional staff in precisely the areas concerned. The hon. Gentleman has received a copy of the report showing that that has been a success. There are more staff in the NHS as a result of the investment that we have made. From time to time there will be vacancies, but there are far more resources available than there ever were in the past.
12. Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the number of health boards where annual expenditure is likely to exceed their budgeted expenditure in 1989-90.
Mr. Darling : The Secretary of State will be aware that Lothian health board is one of the best funded in the country, yet its members-- hand-picked by him, mainly because of their loyalty to the Conservative party--have said that they cannot make ends meet because they are so underfunded. Does not that show to the Secretary of State the dire straits that the Lothian health board and health boards generally are in? What does he intend to do about that? Does he further accept that the inquiry that he announced, being carried out by Mr. Cruickshank, is being viewed with some scepticism and that it would be better to have an independent inquiry to look at the health board funding rather than to have a public brawl between officials?
Mr. Rifkind : I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has confirmed that Lothian health board is one of the best funded in the country. Other boards that are less generously funded have maintained their expenditure within their budgets, so it is not unreasonable also to expect that of the Lothian health board.
There has been an independent inquiry by an independent firm of accountants, which today reported to the chief executive. The report suggests that there have been serious failings in the board's management and reporting systems. We shall be discussing those matters with the board to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to rectify those problems. However, we must do so in a way that does not damage the interests of patients in Lothian, which I believe to be paramount.
Mr. Bill Walker : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that any service, such as the National Health Service, that is demand led must be managed efficiently, effectively and properly and devolved at local level--that is, regional health board level? If that does not happen, it will not be surprising if it runs into difficulties, because that is what happens in a demand led service.
Column 306am sure that we are all concerned that, during the current year, certain problems appear to have led to the board's being unable to contain its expenditure within its budget. The priority must be to ensure that that failing does not lead to any damage to the interests of the patients. That will be the priority of the chief executive of the NHS in his discussions with members of the board and its staff.
Mr. Eadie : Is the Secretary of State saying that the Lothian health board is guilty of financial mismanagement? Are not its members mainly his appointees? Is he aware that, despite what we have heard today about the great increase in nursing staff, I have received a letter from a constituent who works in the Princess Margaret Rose hospital claiming that nurses are worried that they may be made redundant soon because of closures within the hospital? Will nurses in the NHS in Lothian be made compulsorily redundant?
Mr. Rifkind : I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman on that matter. As I said last week, there is no question of hospitals being closed or of other crisis measures being taken because it has become apparent that there has been overspending within the Lothian health board area. We wish to discuss with the board, in a considered, sensible and sensitive way, how it can bring its expenditure under control. I have already given the assurance that no hospital, including the Princess Margaret Rose, is in danger of being shut because of the problems that have arisen. National Health Service (Staff)
13. Mr. Hind : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many doctors, dentists and nurses are employed in the National Health Service in Scotland ; and by how much their pay has increased since 1979.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : There are about 87,000 doctors, dentists and nurses in the Health Service in Scotland. That represents an increase of about 11 per cent. on the position in 1979. Nurses' pay has increased by 43 per cent. over and above inflation, and doctors and dentists' pay has increased by about one third.
Mr. Hind : Is my hon. Friend aware that 23 per cent. more is spent on health care for each Scottish voter than for each English voter? Does he agree that the efficiencies that he has introduced and the Government's prudent management of the Health Service in Scotland--especially through the introduction of competitive tendering--have enabled 11 Scottish health boards to increase the number of doctors and nurses of all disciplines, including mental handicap and community nurses, thereby improving the standards of health care?
Mr. Forsyth : We are endeavouring to improve the standard of health care in Scotland. There are a number of plans for new initiatives, some of which have been mentioned today, including cochlear ear implants, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). There is always a challenge in the NHS, and this Government have met that challenge. It would help us to meet the needs of patients if Opposition Members would accept the need for good efficiency measures in the Health Service, which are as much a part of patient care as is ensuring that there are the conditions and the resources required, which has been this Government's record.
Column 307Mrs. Ray Michie : Can the Minister tell us how doctors and nurses will continue to be employed in Oban unless he can explain what has happened about the new hospital which was first promised in 1972 by a Conservative Secretary of State, and promised again in 1986 by the Minister's predecessor? Is he aware that the people of Oban are fed up with promises that are not kept and with threadbare assurances that planning is going ahead when the site for the hospital has not even been purchased? Will he give a start date and a completion date?
Mr. Forsyth : The hon. Lady will be aware that I have given approval in principle to the establishment of a new hospital in her constituency in Oban. I should have thought that she would welcome that. If the hon. Lady is concerned about progress on the hospital, she is free to write to me or seek a meeting with me. In the period since the general election, when I have been health Minister, I do not recall her seeking a meeting to express concern on the matter. I assume that that is because she knows that in her constituency we have been prepared not only to invest in a new hospital in Oban but to make substantial investment in the facilities at Campbelltown, which is part of a major investment programme in the Health Service in Scotland as a whole.
Mr. Graham : When will the Secretary of State stop squirming in Cabinet and fight for the steel industry of Scotland and for new investment? Will the Secretary of State assure the House and Scotland that he will fight for the jobs at Bishopton Royal Ordnance factory which the Government propose to move from Bishopton to another part of the country, involving the loss of 26 invaluable, highly skilled jobs in my constituency? The workers in that factory fought hard for their jobs and the Secretary of State should stand by them. If he is not prepared to fight for Scotland, I am.
Mr. Dewar : Will the Minister discuss with the STUC the report prepared for the European Commission by the university of Louvain, which looks specifically at Strathclyde, among other areas, and which condemns the Government's lack of preparation for 1992 and draws attention in particular to our inadequate technological base? Against that background what possible defence is there for the ruthless cutting of regional preferential assistance for industry in Scotland, which, under the
Column 308Government, has fallen in real terms from £350 million to £150 million, a damaging decline which yesterday's public expenditure White Paper confirmed will continue?
Mr. Lang : As usual, the Labour party judges the success of a policy simply by how much taxpayers' money is thrown at it. The reality is that Scottish industry is preparing for the single European market. Our exports into Europe have been increasing substantially. West Germany has now overtaken the United States as our biggest export market. Over half of Scottish exports go to Europe, and Scottish manufacturing exports per head exceed those of the rest of the United Kingdom by 28 per cent.
Mr. Allan Stewart : Will my hon. Friend tell the STUC when he next meets it that self-employment in Scotland has risen by 50 per cent. since 1981? Does not that figure give the lie to much of the nonsense that we hear from Opposition Members?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : While no overall figure is yet available, it would appear that the proportion of people in arrears with their community charge payments is broadly the same as under the rating system last year.
Mr. Canavan : In view of the Secretary of State's insulting personal remarks about me, is the Minister aware that the reason why many people such as myself, who can afford to pay the poll tax, choose not to do so is because we are standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with people who have no choice, because they cannot afford to pay it? As there are about 500,000 of us throughout Scotland and only 200 sheriff officers, how does the Minister intend to enforce the collection of the Tory poll tax? Would it not be simpler for the Government to abolish it completely--and to abolish warrant sales while they are at it?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : As a Scottish Member of Parliament, the hon. Gentleman is very well able to pay the community charge from his own earnings. It is for the council concerned to decide on the most appropriate method of collection, whether it be by arrestment or any other legitimate method. I see no reason to reform the warrant sales law, particularly as, when it went through Parliament, neither the hon. Gentleman nor any other Labour Member was prepared to vote against it. The hon. Gentleman's action in refusing to pay the community charge is grossly irresponsible. If enough people followed his example, either services would suffer or there would be redundancies among the local council's work force.
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