My point of order is that last Thursday, during business questions, several requests were made for a statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland on capital offsets. No indication has been given that such a statement will be made. My constituents, and those of other right hon. and hon. Members, are being adversely affected because poinding warrants are being issued and executed in respect of bills that are not founded in law. May I have your permission, Mr. Speaker--
Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman may have an opportunity to raise that matter if we reach questions today that are relevant to that subject. I believe that question No. 16 is the first of them. We must see whether we can do so.
1. Mr. Hood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what extra resources he is making available to Strathclyde police to enable them to fight against the significant increase in drug abuse and drug-related crime ; and if he will make a statement.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) : The provision of resources for Strathclyde policis a matter for Strathclyde regional council as police authority. My right hon. and learned Friend stands ready to pay police grant on the council's net approved expenditure on the police service.
Mr. Hood : I am disappointed by the Minister's reply. Is he aware of the concern felt by thousands of parents in my constituency about the increase in drug and alcohol abuse and in related crimes there? This year, Glasgow is meant to be the city of culture, but it is becoming better known in Europe as the city of drugs. I am saddened by the Minister's response. Is he further aware of the increased use of firearms in drugs offences? Will he take on board early-day motion 771, which deals with the need for gun
Column 470control, and support Strathclyde police force in calling for stricter firearms laws and controls over those licensed to use guns?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Last year, we tightened up the law on firearms ownership--and I voted through the night for that legislation. As to the number of police officers working on the extremely serious problem to which the hon. Gentleman refers, Strathclyde drugs squad now has 34 officers in comparison with only 18 in 1979. The Glasgow drugs wing of the Scottish crime squad has 10 officers, and another will be added later this year. Uniformed and CID officers also co-operate in dealing with the problem. Strathclyde police are under establishment by 130 officers, and the hon. Gentleman would be well advised to make representations to his colleagues on the police authority, as to the need to bring that force up to strength.
Mrs. Ray Michie : Is the Minister aware that Strathclyde police officers also work in Argyll and Bute on drug-related crime, not least because of the length of the coastline there? Does he agree that they would undertake those duties more happily if they were not seriously disadvantaged in comparison with colleagues outwith that area? Eighty per cent. of police in Argyll and Bute live in tied houses. Although I agree with the provision of such accommodation, police are not permitted to buy those houses, and have been disadvantaged since the rates relief portion of their rent allowance was abolished. Will the Minister examine that anomaly?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : We recognised that police officers in provided accommodation were at a disadvantage in comparison with colleagues owning their own houses, which is why we made provision in the regulations that come into effect on 1 April for an allowance of £300 per annum for officers in provided accommodation, which will continue for three years. The right to buy obviously depends on whether the property is surplus to requirements, which is a matter for consideration by the chief constable in each authority.
Mr. Rathbone : Will my hon. Friend encourage police forces in Strathclyde and elsewhere in Scotland to use referral schemes, so that people suffering from drug misuse, and falling within the ambit of police forces, can be referred to voluntary organisations for help with treatment- -as well as being brought within the law?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : There are Home Office plans for the deployment of local drug prevention teams, but they are still at an early stage. We shall be monitoring developments in the first small group of local teams in England. The new central drug prevention unit, as an executive arm of the ministerial group on the misuse of drugs, will have a British role and we are conscious of the need for rehabilitation and education, on which we are spending substantial sums.
2. Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to meet the executive members of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation to discuss the current state of the fishing industry.
Column 471The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind : My noble Friend the Minister of State and I last met representatives of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation on 7 February, and my noble Friend did so on 8 March ; in addition, my officials are in regular contact with the federation. It has not asked for a further meeting.
Mr. Campbell : Does the Secretary of State understand the deep sense of apprehension felt in the fishing community, in the fish processing sector and by all those who derive their living from the fishing industry in Scotland? Will he now undertake to consider a package of measures to alleviate that concern, and in particular give serious consideration to the introduction of a decomissioning scheme?
Mr. Rifkind : I understand that concern. I have had some extremely valuable discussions with the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. I am aware of the concern that a reduction in quotas might have implications for fishermen's income. That is why we have been monitoring carefully what has been happening in the fishing industry since the beginning of the year. So far, it is encouraging that the value of fish landed in Scotland is slightly higher over the first two months of this year than the value of fish landed a year ago. There is no proof that that will continue, but it is encouraging at this stage that the increased prices will help to offset the reduced amount of fish being caught.
Mr. Robert Hughes : Why does the Secretary of State persist with his irrationally vindictive policy of driving the Scottish fleet into bankruptcy? Why does not he take into account the fact that European Community money is available and consider having a proper decommissioning scheme and a proper lay-up scheme? It is no use his saying that prices can take care of the problems when he knows that with boats being allowed to go to sea only 92 days a year, it is quite impossible for the price of fish to rise that much and still produce income without causing great hardship to the owners of vessels and to all those employed in the fishing industry in Scotland.
Mr. Rifkind : I hope that the hon. Gentleman will listen carefully : the value of fish landed in Scotland this year is slightly higher than the value of fish landed last year. As we are only in the early part of the year, that will not necessarily continue, but it is important that we bear it in mind. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the decommissioning scheme was the subject of an extremely critical report by the Public Accounts Committee, and the House and the industry must take into account the critical remarks that were made about previous decommissioning schemes.
Mr. Buchanan-Smith : Will my right hon. and learned Friend analyse carefully the financial returns to the industry in the first part of the year? Admittedly, the returns have been good, but they relate to a very small proportion of the fleet. The rest of the fleet has not been able to go to sea on account of bad weather. Because they are restricted to 92 days, they cannot recoup the losses incurred in the early part of the year as they would in a normal year. Will my right hon. and learned Friend please understand the deep apprehension that still exists in the industry, to the extent that fishermen are now considering legal action against him? I ask him in particular to reconsider a decommissioning scheme.
Mr. Rifkind : Naturally, we shall continue carefully to monitor what is happening in the industry. I know that my right hon. Friend will be the first to agree that the financial implications of the reduced quotas must be examined. The value of the fish landed is a factor that determines fishermen's incomes and we cannot ignore the fact that it is marginally higher this year. Obviously, legal challenges are a matter for the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and ultimately, if the matter is considered by the courts we shall all respect the outcome of the judgment, if it goes that far.
3. Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received from local authorities and other organisations about the need to direct further investment to tackling dampness in public sector housing.
7. Mr. Andrew Welsh : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received from local authorities and other organisations about the need to direct further investment to tackling dampness in public sector housing.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : No such representations have been received. I am pleased to say that I am today announcing the final housing capital allocations to local authorities for 1990-91. The final gross allocations have been increased by £46.5 million compared with the provisional allocations that I announced last December. That will benefit all housing authorities in Scotland. Of the increase, £41.1 million is in respect of expenditure on local authorities' own stock. Full details of the final allocations have been placed in the Library and the Vote Office.
Mrs. Ewing : Does the Minister recall that the Scottish Development Department's own house conditions survey showed that more than 500, 000 houses in Scotland were suffering from dampness, of which 370,000 were in the public sector, and that that dampness was creating major health problems, particularly for youngsters and children with chest problems such as bronchitis? As last week the Secretary of State reshuffled some £4 million to save his political skin and the skin of his party, will a substantial proportion of the allocation that he has announced be spent specifically on the eradication of dampness?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I visited 39 district councils, none of which pressed me to make specific allocations because they want the discretion to choose their own priorities. What the hon. Lady says about the seriousness of dampness is true. Moray district council has today been given an extra allocation of £676,000, and on the non-housing revenue account an extra allocation of £50,000. Every authority in Scotland will benefit from the extra allocation of £41.1 million to the housing revenue account, except West Lothian, which has been allocated everything that it asked for. It also benefits on the non-HRA.
Mr. Welsh : Given that over 520,000 houses in Scotland suffer from dampness, which affects the lives and health of many Scottish people, the amount of money that has been allocated is inadequate to meet the problem. Even to recycle money within the Scottish Office budget, Ministers must go cap in hand to the Secretary of State, who must
Column 473go cap in hand to the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister dominates the Scottish Office, she should be answerable, because Ministers certainly are not. When will we get action to solve major health and housing problems, which are nothing less than a national disgrace?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The extra allocation of £46.5 million is being made not as a result of recycling within the Scottish Office but on the basic assumption that it is possible to process council house sales within seven and a half months. Some authorities in Scotland have taken well over a year to do that, but we know that, in two years, processing has been completed within less than eight months. Last Sunday, the Sunday Mail said :
"It's not a shortage of cash that's causing chaos, but massive delays by some district councils' house selling operations." Mr. McAllion : The Government have created a national housing agency, Scottish Homes, which owns more than 70,000 houses in the public sector. How can it possibly tackle dampness when, according to its strategic investment plan, investment in those 70,000 houses has been placed at the bottom of six different spending priorities? Is not that an obscene order of priorities and does not it represent a sell-out of Scottish Homes' tenants and Scottish Homes' stock?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The Scottish Special Housing Association and Scottish Homes have a good reputation among their tenants for spending sufficient funds on management and maintenance of council house stock. Most of their houses are in relatively good condition. It is for them to choose their priorities, and obviously they will do so. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular problems in his constituency, I should be glad if he drew them to the attention of Scottish Homes and myself.
Mr. John Marshall : Does my hon. Friend agree that the fact that 74 per cent. of houses that suffer from dampness are in the public sector is a condemnation of the policies of Scottish local housing authorities?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : It is important that housing authorities have the discretion to choose priorities within their areas. These problems are found not only in the public sector but in the private sector, and today we have made an additional allocation to the non-HRA as well.
Mr. Maxton : Is the Minister aware how blindly complacent he sounds when he speaks on the subject of dampness? Does not he understand the enormous human misery caused to thousands of Scots through their having to live in damp houses? Does he accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that dampness in housing causes ill health? If he does, will he stop mouthing meaningless statistics that no one in Scotland believes and invest the massive amount of money necessary to eradicate that unacceptable and unnecessary scourge for ever?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The hon. Gentleman seems to think that £46.5 million is to be sniffed at. His authority in Glasgow has today been allocated more than £9 million extra on the housing revenue account and £2 million on the non-HRA. He should address his comments
Column 474to his district council which, no doubt, will take them seriously. The average increase throughout Scotland is 9.8 per cent., and that should not be underestimated.
4. Dr. Godman : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what extra provision he has planned for the community care of mentally ill citizens and those people who are mentally handicapped in 1990-91.
The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Ian Lang) : Government support to local authorities in 1990-91 through revenue support grant will take account of likely additional costs arising from the introduction of the new community care arrangements, including services to those with a mental illness or a mental handicap.
Dr. Godman : Does the Minister agree that one important aspect of community care is the provision of sheltered employment? Is not one of the finest examples of that the sheltered placement scheme, which provides some 350 permanent jobs for those with mental handicaps? As there are about 14,000 mentally handicapped people in Strathclyde region alone, will the Government give an assurance that they will increase their share of that scheme's budget, as Strathclyde regional council has done? When will the Government provide proper community care for those with mental handicap and illness?
Mr. Lang : The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the success of the sheltered placement scheme, which has received strong Government support. Our commitment to the needs of those with mental illness or handicap is reflected in the fact that the social work budget has planned provision increasing over 11 years by 75 per cent. in real terms. That is a substantial increase.
Mr. Andy Stewart : Does my hon. Friend agree that the difference between Labour and Conservative health care policies is the difference between talk and action? The Labour party talks whereas the Conservative party has spent more than three times as much on health care in Scotland over the past 10 years.
Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend is right. It is not insignificant that the title of our White Paper was "Caring for People". The interests of those in especially vulnerable groups have been brought to the forefront in the provision for community care.
Mr. Worthington : When will the Minister bring together the social work services group and the Scottish Home and Health Department to achieve proper planning and co-ordinated policies for Scotland? One of the advantages of the Scottish Office is supposed to be a corporate approach, but it does not exist. There are twice as many mentally ill people and one and a half times as many mentally handicapped people in hospital in Scotland as there are in England and Wales. When will the Minister and the Scottish Office show some leadership in this matter?
Mr. Lang : The figures show a dramatic improvement in our provision compared with that of the previous Labour Government. Residential places for the mentally ill have increased by 88 per cent. since we took office ; there has been a 73 per cent. increase for the mentally handicapped ; and the community health services budget generally is up
Column 475by 57 per cent. in real terms over the decade. That is a dramatic increase. We have found the resources to follow up our care in this important area.
Sir David Steel : The Secretary of State might say that the issue does not arise, but, as the Treasury gave £5 billion to the water authorities in England and Wales in this financial year, does not that mean that nothing equivalent has been given to Scottish authorities, with the result that every poll tax payer is paying a higher element of community charge than would otherwise be the case? Should not the right hon. and learned Gentleman have another of his cosy chats with the Prime Minister and point out the injustice of that as well?
Mr. Rifkind : The right hon. Gentleman is uncharacteristically misinformed. First, he is unaware that expenditure on water and sewerage in Scotland will be more than £500 million over the next three years--a major increase which we announced recently. Secondly, he is unaware that Scottish water consumers actually pay significantly less than consumers south of the border. The average cost per Scottish water consumer is £40.62 compared with an English average of £55.12. For metered water users, there is a similar difference of which he should have been aware.
Mr. Buchanan-Smith : I acknowledge the extra money for investment that my right hon. and learned Friend has allocated for water and sewerage, but will he also recognise the problem facing regional councils such as Grampian? In recent years, Grampian has had to invest large sums in water and sewerage services because of the service that the council gives to the development of North sea oil. As a result, traditional industries in Grampian such as fish processing, food processing in general and the paper industry must bear charges out of all proportion to those of similar industries elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Rifkind : I am very familiar with the point that my right hon. Friend has raised. He will be aware that water charges in Grampian are much the same as those in England. In addition, Grampian regional council, which has received advice from the Scottish Office about the council's discretion to vary water costs for certain classess of its consumers, has--if I am not mistaken--reduced some of its water charges this year as a result of that discretion.
Mr. Harry Ewing : When the Secretary of State says that he has no plans to privatise the water industry in Scotland, is he aware of the speech made by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), to what he described as the new Right in Scotland, in which he said that the Conservative party had not yet run out of things to privatise in Scotland? Will the
Column 476Secretary of State give us an absolute assurance that water is not included in the speech made by his hon. Friend, or is he still afraid of him?
6. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with representatives of the Scottish fishing industry since the announcement on 8 March of measures to restrict fishing activity.
representatives of the Scottish fishing industry on the day of the announcement.
Mr. Wallace : I am sure that, from his contacts with fishermen and the fishing industry, the Minister will know that one of the great weaknesses in the present conservation regime is the number of fish that are discarded into the sea. Does he agree that the measures announced on 8 March will do nothing to stop that fault in the regime? The problem will not be tackled properly until the Government are prepared to come forward with measures that bring the catching capacity of the fleet into line with fishing opportunities. Is it not the case that any efforts on the part of the Scottish Office to do that are being frustrated by its English counterparts?
Mr. Lang : No, that is not the case. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises that conservation is vital, which is also recognised by our colleagues in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as well as by the Scottish Office. With regard to the announcement about haddock, there was an option to move to nets with a wider mesh of 110 mm, but the vast majority of fishermen opted instead for the more restricted number of days' fishing.
Dr. Godman : The restriction of fishing activities off the west coast of Scotland must have as its aim the protection of the west coast fishermen, who fear--rightly and understandably--an incursion into their traditional fishing grounds by the bigger vessels from elsewhere in Scotland. With regard to discards, mentioned by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), what consultation have the Government been involved in on the harsh measures threatened by the Norwegian Government and the banning of discards on catches in their waters? That ban will affect some north-east Scottish fishermen.
Mr. Lang : I entirely understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about the interests of west coast fishermen. We are looking closely at that point with a view to bringing forward a consultation paper at an early date, which may, for example, canvass the possibility of a weekend ban on fishing in west coast inshore waters.
Column 477right hon. and learned Friend intends to issue shortly draft guidance on how this and other aspects of religious education might be strengthened.
Mr. Greenway : Does my hon. Friend agree that all pupils should have a sound knowledge of the Christian religion and that that can be substantially achieved through well-conducted school assemblies? Does he think that those assemblies would be enriched by the regular singing of "I vow to thee my country", meaning Great Britain of course? Perhaps the singing of that great hymn would enrich our prayers in the House.
Mr. Lang : Yes, or perhaps the singing of "Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom." It is certainly our intention in bringing forward the consultation paper to find ways of strengthening religious observance and religious education in schools. That is part of our purpose.
Mr. Norman Hogg : Does the Minister agree that the Scots do not require advice on religious education or practices in schools or anywhere else, and certainly not from sources in England where the average attendance in church on Sundays is less than 2 per cent? Does he further agree that perhaps school assemblies could join in observing the Church of Scotland's day of prayer against the poll tax? Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), could advise the education authorities and the school chaplains to do just that.
Mr. Lang : I am only a Minister of the Crown and I cannot aspire to those greater insights to which ministers of the Kirk aspire. There is a need for improved religious observance in schools, and the characteristics of that should be more frequent. It should be more regular and of high quality.
Mr. McKelvey : No doubt when the hon. Gentleman met the health board chairman in Ayrshire he discussed the question of opting out. I wish that I had been a fly on the wall at the time. Is the Minister aware that in the Glasgow Herald of 19 March, Bill Fyfe, the chairman of the health board, made it clear that in his opinion only doctors could decide the question of hospitals opting out, that it could not be decided otherwise, and that opting-out cannot be rammed down their threats? Will the Minister therefore refrain from ramming the idea of opting-out down the throats of doctors and consultants in Ayrshire and elsewhere? Will he give an undertaking to abandon opting-out since little interest in it has been shown by doctors, or will he at least allow opting-out only where a majority of those working in hospitals have agreed to accept it?
Mr. Forsyth : I am very much aware that Mr. Bill Fyfe, the chairman of the health board, rejected the view expressed by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), in his role as paid columnist for the Glasgow
Column 478Herald, to the effect that the proposals that are being discussed in Ayrshire and Arran for self-governing status for that hospital were in in no way linked to any possibility of development of phase two of that hospital. Whether a proposal comes forward will depend entirely on the discussions that are taking place and on whether the consultants believe that it is in the interests of patient care.
Mr. Michael J. Martin : Will the Minister take time to visit the chairman of the Greater Glasgow health board? He will know from correspondence that he has received from me that some patients in Springburn are not shown on the records of the Greater Glasgow health board as being with their doctors. As a result, some patients who have been with their doctors since 1935 are not recorded as being on their GP's list. That means that the general practitioner is not being paid for those patients. It is ridiculous that Greater Glasgow health board does not have proper records.
Mr. Dewar : Can the Minister answer the simple question that was put to him initially and say when he met the chairman of the Ayrshire and Arran health board? Does he recall that the working paper on self-governing hospitals that was produced by his Department stated :
"It will be for boards to give all proposals local publicity. They will seek the views of those with an interest,"
"staff affected, general practitioners, local health councils and the local community"?
Has that working paper become waste paper? Or, if the Minister still believes in an element of democratic consent, how will the promise to consult the staff of hospitals that may opt out be implemented?
Mr. Forsyth : The hon. Gentleman seems somewhat confused. If he has read that working paper he will know the process whereby hospitals become NHS trusts. The first stage is an expression of interest ; the hospital in Ayr has not even reached that stage yet. The second stage is that, if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate that the expression of interest should be followed up, a plan will be prepared. At that stage there will be full consultation, not only with the doctors but with the wider community, as spelt out in the document to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
10. Mr. Cran : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much inward investment has taken place in Scotland over the last five years ; and what steps he is taking to encourage further such investment.
Mr. Lang : Over the five years to the end of March 1989, Locate in Scotland recorded planned investment by companies of about £2.4 billion, associated with the intended creation or safeguarding of more than 40,000 jobs. Locate in Scotland is continuing to promote Scotland vigorously as a location for inward investment, and I have recently increased its staffing.
Column 479result of the Government's policies, and that they almost certainly would not have been attracted in those numbers had a Labour Government been in power, because the Opposition are anti- business? Does he also agree that the Government's inward investment programme is being maintained, as is evidenced by the 2,000 jobs that have just been attracted to Scotland as a result of Motorola coming there? Will my hon. Friend kindly leave some jobs for the rest of the United Kingdom?
Mr. Lang : I would not argue with my hon. Friend about the exact number of jobs that have been created, but certainly a number of indirect jobs follow from the direct jobs that have been created, and they are substantial in number. Over the past five years about 300 projects have been attracted to Scotland, which is an average of one a week every week for five years. That is a dramatic advertisement of the qualities that Scotland has to offer.
Mr. Ernie Ross : If the hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Cran), who has joined us, is looking for a safe seat in Scotland, following the resignation of his Tory councillors, he is wasting his time. Perhaps the Minister will ask his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State a question. In "The Thatcher Interview", talking about the effect that high business rates are having on the closure rate of business in Scotland, the Prime Minister said that closures might be the result of bad management or too much borrowing. Does the Secretary of State fall into line with her judgment on this issue?
Mr. Lang : I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should raise the subject of business rates, because the Labour party has been responsible for substantially increased business rates in Scotland over the years, to the great detriment of business. The Government have stepped in with new resources and a progressive plan to reduce business rates in Scotland steadily over a five or six-year period to bring them into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Allan Stewart : Does my hon. Friend agree that nothing could do more harm to Scotland's prospects for inward investment than a combination of the roof tax and the setting up of a Scottish assembly as the only European haven of socialism apart from Albania--a comparison which is perhaps unfair to Albania?
Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The reason why we have been so successful in attracting inward investment to Scotland is that we have established an enterprise economy there based on low taxation rates. The high taxes that would result from a Labour Government would drive investment away not only from Scotland but from the whole United Kingdom.
Mr. Beggs : But does he agree that Dumfries and Galloway, Stranraer and Cairnryan are as peripheral to the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland is? Is there likely to be inward investment in that region of Scotland?
Mr. Lang : The hon. Gentleman will know of my enthusiasm to attract inward investment to Dumfries and Galloway. As for infrastructure, we have substantially increased investment in the A75--about £50 million has
Column 480been spent on it in the past decade, and more is to follow. That is of advantage not only to my constituents but to the hon. Gentleman's in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Ian Bruce : Does my hon. Friend believe that the European Community may soon find that the special measures given to Scotland, over and above those given to England, are going to an area which is no longer one of low income and low economic growth, and that it will not allow them in a free-trade Europe?
Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend may be assured that the selective assistance that operates in Scotland is part of the United Kingdom scheme which is applied on even-handed criteria and meets the rules and regulations of the European Commission.