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House of Commons

Wednesday 13 November 1991

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


London Underground (Safety Measures) Bill

[Lords] Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time tomorrow.

London Underground (King's Cross) Bill Order for consideration read.

To be considered tomorrow.

Commercial and Private Bank Bill

[Lords] Order for Second Reading read.

Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers to Questions


Defence-related Employment

1. Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the level of defence-related employment in Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart) : Direct employment in Scotland associated with Ministry ofDefence expenditure on equipment stood at around 14,000 in 1989-90. This was the equivalent of 9.5 per cent. of such employment in the United Kingdom, a proportion which has been constant since 1987-1988. In addition, at 1 July 1990, a total of 19,300 service personnel and 12,300 Ministry of Defence civilian employees were deployed in Scotland.

Mr. Home Robertson : How does the Minister intend to protect employment and help diversification at GEC-Ferranti and Yarrow? Will he focus on the Ministry of Defence decision to do away with 2,000 infantry soldiers' jobs in Scotland? In particular, will he reflect on assurances given by the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Transport that the amalgamations of the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Scots, the Gordon Highlanders and the Queen's Own Highlanders will be further reviewed? Now that both the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister have comprehensively rubbished those assurances, will the Secretary of State for Scotland have to eat humble pie again or will he stand up for Scotland and make this a resignation issue?

Mr. Stewart : My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Defence have spoken in complete unison on this. [Interruption.] The position is

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perfectly clear. There is no intention to review the proposals that have been announced, but there are at least two years before the first amalgamations and if military circumstances change, there is time for a reassessment of present plans.

On the hon. Gentleman's other point, it is worth saying that with 9 per cent. of the United Kingdom population, Scotland will retain 15.8 per cent. of the infantry, 13.6 per cent. of the armoured forces and 18.8 per cent. of the artillery. On the readjustment of industry, at my right hon. Friend's request Scottish Enterprise has established a defence industries initiative to help businesses and local enterprise companies exploit existing defence markets and develop

diversification strategies. I hope that that move will be welcomed by the entire House.

Mr. Bill Walker : My hon. Friend will be aware of the concern of my constituents who work at the Royal Navy workshop at Almondbank because of the present review of helicopter servicing. Will my hon. Friend assure my constituents and the House that the Conservative party and Ministers in Scotland are fighting to ensure that that workshop, which has a record of excellence and can carry out plating work which saves the Government millions of pounds on buying replacement parts, will continue because of its record and not for sentimental reasons?

Mr. Stewart : I am aware of my hon. Friend's expertise on this subject and his concern about it. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State for Defence Procurement is present on the Front Bench and will have noted what my hon. Friend has said. Almondbank is one of a number of helicopter facilities. A Cabinet Office efficiency scrutiny team is examining the structure of those facilities and will report early in the new year. I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall take a close interest in this matter. I shall also ensure that the merits and advantages of Almondbank, to which my hon. Friend rightly referred are taken fully into account.

Mr. Dewar : I thank the Minister for clarifying the Scottish Office position. I now understand that there will be no review of the future of the Scottish regiments unless there is a dramatic change in circumstances or a change in the strategic requirements of the country. How does he reconcile that with the rather desperate hints given by the Secretary of State in recent weeks as he vainly tried to rally his troops in the recent by-election? Is it not the case that after all the hype and hopes that were insinuated in the debate, the Scottish Office is toeing the Ministry of Defence line?

Does the Minister accept that there is an atmosphere of crisis within the defence contracting industry in Scotland? Does he accept the make-or-break significance of the next round of type 23 frigate orders for Yarrow and the central importance of GEC-Ferranti? Will we have regular reports of what the diversification unit set up by Scottish Enterprise is doing, its remit and the kind of results it is recommending?

Mr. Stewart : First, as I understand Labour party policy, which is a matter of some difficulty, the hon. Gentleman's party would cut defence expenditure by about £5 billion per year.

On the hon. Gentleman's first question, I am not responsible for what the press say about particular matters. I repeat our position, which has been made

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absolutely clear by my right hon. Friends. There is no intention to review the announcement on the Scottish regiments, but there is at least two years until the first amalgamations and the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Scottish ones will take place at the end of the process. If military circumstances change, there is time for a reassessment of the present plans.

I fully appreciate the importance of GEC-Ferranti as an employer in Edinburgh and Lothian. Yarrow is also a major employer, not only in the constituency of the hon. Gentleman but throughout the west of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman will be aware--[ Hon. Members :-- "Get on with it."] that I have discussed the frigate orders with the shop stewards. I believe that a meeting has been arranged between the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State.

Mr. Speaker : I realise the importance of such matters in Scotland, but may I ask for crisper questions?

Hon. Members : And answers.

Mr. Speaker : And answers.

Clydeside Against Pollution

3. Mrs. Irene Adams : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he plans to meet a delegation of members of the campaign for Clydeside against pollution.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) : Neither my right hon. Friend nor I have any planto meet a delegation of members of the campaign for Clydeside against pollution.

Mrs. Adams : The Minister may recall that it is almost a year since I first raised in the House the matter of the proposed incinerator in Renfrew. Since then the community of Renfrew--and, in fact, the entire Clyde valley community--have had the prospect of a toxic waste incinerator hanging over their heads like a black cloud. Will the Minister now come to my constituency and meet representatives of this responsible campaign group to discuss the prospect of a full public inquiry into the matter? Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The Secretary of State has a quasi-judicial role, as planning matters may be involved and there could be a planning appeal to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Dewar : They should be involved.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The hon. Gentleman says that they should be involved. I am saying that there could be an appeal to the Secretary of State and that therefore it is not appropriate to have a meeting. However, as I am conscious of the strong feeling that the hon. Lady has registered on behalf of her constituents, I assure her that before a plant can be registered for an incinerator it must comply with the emissions standards enforced by Her Majesty's industrial pollution inspectorate. Those standards must be in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 and the Alkali, etc. Works Regulation Act 1906. Over and above that, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 brings more stringent procedures into force in 1992 and will apply to the subject.

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The hon. Lady also asked about a public inquiry. At this stage I can only say that, as the statutory procedures are being correctly followed in all respects, a public inquiry would not be appropriate.

Fish Conservation

4. Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet representatives of the Scottish fishing industry to discuss the conservation of fishing stocks.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth) : My noble Friend the Scottish Fisheries Minister will meet the Scottish Fishermen's Federation on 18 November.

Mrs. Ewing : At the meeting on 18 November, will there be a clear discussion about the eight-day tie-up regulations which, one year on, are now seen as the most hated and despised aspect of the conservation policy, bringing financial hardship, fear and life-threatening situations to our coastal communities? If the Government are not prepared to abolish that most ineffective policy, will they at least consider flexibility in the application of the rules, taking particular account of men who are kept on shore because of bad weather or boat maintenance?

Mr. Forsyth : There will be a discussion at the December Fisheries Council about the best means of reducing fishing effort in 1992. The eight- day tie-up has been an agreed method within the Community during the current year. If the hon. Lady has any proposals, I am sure that my noble Friend would be interested to hear them. We are not absolutely committed to the eight-day tie-up rule and would be prepared to discuss other means of reducing fishing effort, but they would have to be agreed with our European Community partners.

Sir Hector Monro : I am glad that we are concentrating on conservation. Will my hon. Friend consider, in the light of our efforts on set-aside in agriculture, that the principle of decommissioning is very similar? I thank my hon. Friend for the Government's efforts to reduce the pressure on drift netting in the North sea, which will have a good impact on salmon fishing in Scotland. That will help our tourist industry and many other rural economies in Scotland.

Mr. Forsyth : I am grateful to my hon. Friend and agree that the measures taken in respect of drift netting will boost salmon interests in Scotland. We remain open to suggestions on decommissioning. It need not necessarily reduce fishing effort, but it is about making people in the fishing industry unemployed. Our objectives are to secure the long-term interests of the fishing industry by ensuring effective measures to secure stocks.

Mr. Macdonald : A radical conservation measure which would enjoy the full support of the fishermen affected would be a weekend ban on prawn fisheries on the west coast. It would not cost the Government money, would have the support of fishermen and would be extremely effective in terms of conservation.

Mr. Forsyth : I shall ensure that my noble Friend the Scottish Fisheries Minister is aware of the hon.

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Gentleman's suggestion. I am sure that he will consider the hon. Gentleman's representations, which are always carefully put and taken seriously.

Ayrshire South Hospital

5. Mr. McKelvey : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the total number of responses to the consultation process regarding the application for trust status for Ayrshire South hospital ; and how many were for or against.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang) : Eight hundred and five written responses, including 579 pre-printed slips from local newspapers, were received. A petition was also submitted. Opinions ranged from outright support to outright opposition, with many respondents expressing concern or seeking information about particular aspects of the application.

Mr. McKelvey : That answer is a disgrace. I asked how many responses had been received because we knew, from the responses that we had received, that the vast majority of the people of Ayrshire are totally opposed to the opting out of Ayrshire South hospital. That opinion is absolutely in line with that expressed by the people of Kincardine and Deeside who thoroughly rejected opting out at the ballot box. If the Secretary of State is able to give an honest answer at the Dispatch Box, will he tell us that if he genuinely surveys the objections and sees that the vast majority of the people of Ayrshire object to opting out, he will give democratic and fair- minded consideration to the consultative process and, at best, abandon the idea of opting out or at least postpone it for the foreseeable future?

Mr. Lang : I do not doubt that the majority of opinion as expressed in the submissions was opposed to the opting out process, although it is impossible to categorise opinions in the way that the hon. Gentleman would wish. Much though I understand the worries expressed by residents of the district to be served by the hospital, one must also take account of the basis of their concern, and the misinformation which has caused their alarm. I must take account of the quality of representations as well as the sheer quantity. The application is measured against four clearly published criteria which include patient care, the competence of the management, the involvement of professional and clinical staff and the financial viability of the application. That is the basis on which I shall consider the application, and I will do so carefully.

Mr. Galbraith : Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has already decided to refuse the trust application from the Royal Scottish National hospital at Larbert and to suspend the applications from Foresterhill and Ayrshire South hospitals, designating them as shadow trusts, whatever that means? When will the Secretary of State make a decision and give us an answer on that most important issue? Rather than procrastinating with shadow trusts, why does he not do what the incoming Labour Government will do and abandon the ill-conceived, ill-considered, useless and unwanted ideas about trust hospitals?

Mr. Lang : I have not reached a conclusion on any of the applications before me. I am giving them the most careful

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and thorough consideration, and I shall reach a decision and announce it as soon as I can. I certainly shall not follow the example of the last Labour Government's handling of the health service. We have achieved a dramatic improvement as a result of the extra funding that we have put into the health service in the past 12 years.

Mr. Foulkes : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : No, I did not call the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) and I know that the hospital is in his constituency, but perhaps he will be patient.


6. Mr. Simon Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the value of grants under section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969 in the current year ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Allan Stewart : The Scottish tourist board estimates that in 1991-92 payments under the section 4 scheme of capital assistance will total £3.5 million. I am satisfied, and this has been confirmed by a recent independent review, that that support is effective in generating investment and jobs.

Mr. Coombs : My hon. Friend's answer will be widely welcomed by the tourist industry not just in Scotland, but throughout the United Kingdom, but will he say a little more about the results of the independent review to which he referred? Can he assure me that, if he has not already done so, he will send a copy of that report to our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment?

Mr. Stewart : Yes, I can confirm that that review showed that there was a clear need for section 4 support in Scotland. During the period 1983- 84 to 1989-90, the scheme assisted 902 projects, disbursed £31.6 million of board funds at constant 1990 prices, and produced total tourism investment of £197.2 million at 1990 prices. I know of my hon. Friend's interest in the matter, following the report of the Select Committee on Employment, and I can give an assurance that if the consultants' report to which I referred has not yet reached the Department of Employment, it will do so as soon as possible.

Mr. McAllion : Has the Minister read the reports in today's press of record numbers of passengers passing through Scottish airports? Will he confirm that most of them are tourists, many of whom are travelling north for a last glimpse of a rare species on the point of extinction in Scotland --Scottish Tory Members? Will he further confirm that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Scottish Office have been recommended for a Scottish tourism award for their determination to self-destruct in Scotland?

Mr. Stewart : I have been described as many things, but that is the first time I have been described as a tourist attraction. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to refer to the increased numbers of passengers going through Scottish airports--especially Glasgow airport, following the Government's excellent decision to allow transatlantic flights from that airport.

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Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : Will my hon. and attractive Friend congratulate Perth and Kinross district council on the dynamic quality of its work in attracting vast benefits to Scotland and Scottish industry by means of its policy of twinning with Pskov in Russia and Haikou on Hainan island in China, this year bringing to Perth the most valuable exhibition of icons in the world? [Interruption.] I should tell Opposition Members who are giggling, and who will also benefit from this, that the council is also twinning with Cognac.

Mr. Stewart : I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend is right to praise Perth and Kinross district council. Perth has many colourful attractions for tourists, it enjoys a high quality of life and I am sure that it will continue successfully to attract national and international tourists.

Patients Charter

7. Mrs. Ray Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the total cost of the launch of the patients charter in Scotland.

Mr. Lang : The cost of the production and launch of the patients charter to date is £29,316. We expect to stimulate significant improvements in NHS performance, particularly on waiting times, as a result.

Mrs. Michie : Does the Secretary of State agree that the staff of the national health service are dedicated and caring and have achieved many of the aims spelt out in that glossy document? Does he agree that what they need is support and proper resources so that they can carry out their work, not what has been happening over the past 12 years--continual restructuring and reforms which do the service no good and break up the comprehensive national health service that we all know?

Mr. Lang : I entirely agree with the hon. Lady's complimentary remarks about the quality of the staff in the health service. That is why I particularly welcome the enthusiastic way in which they have embraced the patients charter and the accompanying document on internal management in the health service, "Framework for Action". As for resources, the hon. Lady will know that we spent about £3 billion on the health service in Scotland last year, which is more than £600 per head for every man, woman and child in the country and represents an increase of about 38 per cent. over and above the cost of living in the past 12 years. Resources are there in plenty ; what we are now achieving is an improved application of those resources. That is what the patients charter is about, and that is why it is so warmly welcomed.

Mr. Favell : To an Englishman like me, it is a source of astonishment that Scots should intransigently oppose any kind of change in the health service. No one has done more to advance the frontiers of medicine than the Scots, yet the Opposition oppose any sort of change. Do not the Scots realise that with better techniques, new medical discoveries and more efficacious drugs many more people would be treated if only the health service were to change?

Mr. Lang : There is a great deal in what my hon. Friend says, and the pride which I and my fellow Scots have in the health service in Scotland is a reflection of the achievements of the past 12 years and the resources that we

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have put into it. As a result, 900,000 more patients were treated last year than in 1979, and that has resulted in in- patient waiting lists being 21 per cent. lower than in 1979.

Mr. Wilson : In total, how much does the Scottish Office intend to spend this year on thinly disguised party political propaganda, including vacuous glossy charters? Will he confirm that last year the Scottish Office spent £2.6 million on advertising alone, which is 10 times the figure for 1979? Why should the Tory party not pay for its own advertising out of party political funds rather than constantly using taxpayers' money to try to get its message across? The figure of £2.6 million is equal to almost £300,000 per Tory MP in Scotland. Is the taxpayer getting value for money?

Mr. Lang : There is no question of the Government using public funds for party political purposes, and I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should suggest that. Of course, the Scottish Office runs a number of public information campaigns and I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman would want us to do that to encourage the improvement of health in various ways. The patients charter is aimed at improving the quality of the delivery of health care in Scotland and at making patients aware of their rights, thereby helping to improve even more the delivery of the health service.

Heart Specialists

8. Mr. Michael J. Martin : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to increase the number of heart specialists working in national health service hospitals in Scotland.

Mr. Michael Forsyth : We have increased funding for the cardiac services this year by a quarter bringing the total to £20 million.

Mr. Martin : Physicians are concerned at the fact that heart patients sometimes have to wait between three months and a year for surgery. Some patients do not even get the chance of surgery because they have waited too long. There is great concern that in a hospital such as Stobhill a patient with heart warning signs can receive angiography examinations within a week, but in places such as Ayrshire and Argyllshire physicians have to keep patients waiting longer on medication. Surely that is unfair. If we had more specialists and more facilities, heart patients could be dealt with in a proper manner.

Mr. Forsyth : Half the patients who require heart surgery are dealt with immediately, but the hon. Gentleman is right to say that some patients have to wait. Whether a patient needs to be admitted immediately is a clinical decision. The number of patients being treated has risen enormously, and 3,000 heart patients are now receiving surgery. We have expanded the programme in terms of the number of centres where treatment is provided, and at the beginning of next year we shall carry out the first heart transplant operations in Scotland. Therefore, there has been a major expansion. We are also expanding capacity, especially through Greater Glasgow health board which is using the private sector so that an extra 120 patients may be treated. I am acutely aware of the importance of what the hon. Gentleman says and I hope that it may be possible to make further progress in

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expanding the programme. I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that there has been a major expansion.

Mr. McMaster : Is the Minister aware that over the past year some Scottish health boards have issued letters to general practitioners instructing them to refer only urgent cases for essential treatments such as physiotherapy and to hold the rest on file? Does that mean that there is now a waiting list to go on to the waiting list?

Mr. Forsyth : I am not aware of that, but if the hon. Gentleman would like to provide me with details I shall certainly look into the matter. The hon. Gentleman has clearly studied this issue and will know that three quarters of all patients in Scotland are dealt with within four weeks and that half are dealt with immediately. The record of the health service is improving dramatically and waiting lists are now very much shorter than they were when the Government first took office. Every Labour Government has left office with longer waiting lists.

RENAVAL Programme

9. Dr. Godman : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has held with representatives of district councils and European Commission officials concerning the implementation of the RENAVAL programme ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Allan Stewart : There have been a number of discussions about the implementation of the RENAVAL programme between Scottish Office officials, representatives of the local partnerships, which include district councils, and officials of the European Commission.

Dr. Godman : Why has there been such a lamentable delay in the implementation of the RENAVAL programme? Is it not the case that those responsible for the disgraceful delay are to be found in St. Andrew's house? Many projects and organisations, such as the Clyde ports authority, Inverclyde district council and community groups, are seeking assistance in developing economic and community projects. The Auch mountain glen project, which would restore a local beauty spot, has remarkable local support, but it is being thwarted by the obduracy of the Minister and his officials. They should play the game by my constituency.

Mr. Stewart : I reject the hon. Gentleman's criticism, and I can reassure him on the present position. The revised projects for the RENAVAL programme for Fife and Strathclyde were recently agreed. The European Commission has said that it hopes that the projects will receive formal approval by the end of the year. I will send the hon. Gentleman a copy of the Strathclyde programme, which will be worth some £20 million ecu, which is £15 million.

Ardrossan-Saltcoats-Stevenston Bypass

10. Mr. Lambie : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he is going to announce the start of the

Ardrossan-Saltcoats-Stevenston bypass ; and if he will make a statement.

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Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The preparation of the

Ardrossan-Saltcoats-Stevenston bypass scheme is continuing. A public local inquiry may be required to consider the remaining objections to the scheme. Negotiations are however continuing with the affected parties.

Once the scheme is fully prepared it will be considered for a construction start in the light of the competing priorities and level of available resources.

Mr. Lambie : I suppose that I should be happy with that response. I have waited 20 years for a decision on the

Ardrossan-Saltcoats-Stevenston bypass, and I am sure that the Minister will give me a favourable result before I retire at the next election. Will the Minister confirm that he has received the results of the review of the trunk road system in Scotland and that the bypass, once it has been approved, will be given first priority in this list of trunk roads?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I can tell the hon. Gentleman about the review, which was commissioned in 1989. The results of the study are being analysed and will assist in the development of our policy for the management and improvement of all Scotland's trunk road network. Once the results of the review have been analysed, an executive summary will be produced, setting out the key strategic results. This will be available on request and is expected to be completed in the next few months. As to negotiations with the statutory objector, these are being pursued and we shall do our best to reach a satisfactory conclusion on the hon. Gentleman's constituency project.

Youth Unemployment

11. Mr. Norman Hogg : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the level of youth unemployment in Scotland.

Mr. Allan Stewart : In July 1991, the latest date for which information is available, there were 73,887 people aged under 25 years unemployed in Scotland. This represents 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom total compared with 14 per cent. in July 1989.

Mr. Hogg : Is the Minister aware that I have been asking this question, mostly of him, for the past 13 years and that that reply reflects how serious is youth unemployment in Scotland? Much of the real figure is concealed by half-baked schemes concocted by his Department, which do not reveal the real position. Do we not need to have real training for real jobs on the same basis as our major European competitors, notably the Germans? If we do not have that, we shall not be in a competitive position in the future.

Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman will no doubt welcome the fact that unemployment in his constituency fell last month, as it did throughout Scotland. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should wait to see the figures. As to the general point, we give a guarantee of a training place for all 16 or 17-year-olds who are not in full-time employment or education. As far as I know, that guarantee is given by no other European country. The current 300,000 youth training places in the United Kingdom compare with the lamentable 7,000 or so under the last Labour Government.

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Mr. Ian Bruce : Opposition Members are always doughty fighters when claiming that they wish to preserve youth employment. Has my hon. Friend reflected on the likely effect of Labour's policy to establish a minimum wage of £3.20 per hour for every 16-year-old--and, indeed, on the effect on recruitment to the armed forces if defence spending were reduced by 50 per cent? That seems to be what Opposition parties want.

Mr. Stewart : I believe that, in that last instance, my hon. Friend is referring to the policy of the Liberal Democrats. He is, however, entirely right about the effect that a national minimum wage would have on jobs, especially jobs for young people. According to a number of independent commentators, up to 1.2 million jobs could be lost.

Mr. Worthington : Opposition Members are tired of the current complacency about youth unemployment. A guarantee is of value only if it is honoured. In Tayside, 533 young people are now unemployed ; in Central region, 500 are unemployed. These are the 16 to 18-year-olds to whom the Government have given a guarantee.

The shortage of jobs is especially bad in traditional craft apprenticeships, in which many young people wish to work. Lothian now has 3,000 unemployed youngsters ; that is 22 per cent. up on last year's figure. Strathclyde has a shortage of more than 3,000 opportunities. All that is concealed beneath a cloak of commercial confidentiality. The Minister is walking away from the problem, and he must stop doing so. Let us have a full independent review of the extent of youth unemployment in Scotland, and end the Government's complacency.

Hon. Members : Answer.

Mr. Stewart : I am going to answer. Today I checked the position in every local enterprise company. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Central region. It is clear that Forth Valley Enterprise is well on schedule towards ensuring that its end-of-year target is achieved. The hon. Gentleman also referred to Lothian ; there are sufficient places on Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd. to meet demand. Scottish Enterprise Tayside currently has 2,800 young people in training, and nearly 1,500 have entered the scheme since 1 April.

The guarantees will be met by local enterprise companies throughout Scotland. What the hon. Gentleman says about me does not concern me ; but, if he is calling the local enterprise companies liars, I suggest that he repeat that outside the House.

NHS Trusts

12. Mr. Malcolm Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the future of NHS trusts.

15. Mr. McAvoy : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had supporting the principle of hospitals becoming trusts outside the national health service ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang : NHS trusts form an important part of the national health service, providing services to patients free at the point of delivery. I am at present considering applications for trust status from three Scottish hospitals.

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Mr. Bruce : Does the Secretary of State accept that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen)--whom I am pleased to welcome to the House--will confirm, 100 per cent. of those who voted in the Kincardine and Deeside by-election voted against the opt-out of Foresterhill? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it would be contrary to the interests of patient care to force through a proposal that is opposed by consultants, nursing staff, general practitioners, patients and the general public? Will he now listen to the people of Scotland, abandon the current policy and pursue policies that have the support of the people?

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