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House of Commons

Wednesday 24 June 1992

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions



1. Mr. Gallie : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to discuss police manning levels in Scotland.

4. Mr. McMaster : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to allocate additional funds to improve the level of community policing in Scotland.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang) : I have no plans to meet COSLA to discuss levels of police manpower, which are primarily the responsibility of individual police authorities. The allocation of resources to particular policing priorities is for the chief constable. I pay specific grant on all net expenditure by police authorities. Uniformed police strength has risen by 9 per cent. since 1979.

Mr. Gallie : Is my right hon. Friend aware that my police authority, Strathclyde regional council, consistently undermans the force by, on average, 200 policemen? In view of the Conservative party's manifesto pledge, when will my right hon. Friend make minimum police levels mandatory?

Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the fact that the Strathclyde police are substantially below establishment. The authority could recruit 258 new officers and still be within establishment. My hon. Friend is right also to draw attention to the Government's commitment at the last election to take the earliest possible legislative opportunity to enforce statutory requirements to bring establishments up to full complement.

Mr. McMaster : It is clear from the Secretary of State's answer that he offers only apathy where we desperately need action. Is he aware that in Paisley, in the past five months alone, there have been six murders, 50 serious assaults, 27 incidents involving guns and 33 hold-ups involving knives? Why is it that, every time I write to the Scottish Office on that subject, the right hon. Gentleman dodges his responsibility for police funding and passes the buck to everyone else? When will he stop blaming other people and dodging the question and take action to get police back on the streets?

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Mr. Lang : Not only do we now pay a higher proportion of specific grant than the last Labour Government, but we have increased spending in real terms on the police by 52 per cent. I urge the hon. Gentleman as a Member of Parliament from the Strathclyde region to urge that local authority to increase its police force to full establishment.

Mr. Wilson : Does the Secretary of State agree that it might not come amiss from those who were most energetic and slavish in advocating the poll tax to show a little humility in considering its consequences for local authorities? Will he give practical support to Strathclyde's efforts to civilianise many jobs, which would release police officers for the work that they should do? Will the right hon. Gentleman welcome the high-profile approach adopted by Strathclyde police during a recent weekend in Glasgow city centre? Does he recognise the widespread fear and concern that exist over the trebling of knife-carrying? Will he explain why I have had no response to my approaches to the previous Lord Advocate or the present one about the urgent need for legislative action to deal with this critical problem? When will we get action instead of fancy words?

Mr. Lang : I did not notice the hon. Gentleman supporting our proposal during the general election campaign to bring in legislation on knives. He need be in no doubt that we are determined to fight the increase in crime, especially crimes of violence and those involving offensive weapons. We shall strengthen the powers of the police as necessary.

Council House Sales

2. Mr. Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many council houses have been sold to sitting tenants in Scotland since May 1979.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) : Since 1979, some quarter of a million houses havbeen sold by public authorities in Scotland. Almost all were sold to sitting tenants, of which almost 178,000 were sold by local authorities.

Mr. Knox : What proportion of council house stock in Scotland has been sold? If the figure is still significantly different from that in England, what steps is my hon. Friend taking to increase sales in Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : About 24 per cent. of the total stock in Scotland has been sold. Some years ago England was 5 per cent. ahead, but now it is barely 1 per cent. ahead. We are speedily closing the gap and intend to introduce further legislation to speed up rent-to-mortgage sales and right-to-buy sales and to bring in further rights for Scottish council tenants.

Dr. Godman : Is the Minister aware that many council house tenants in Inverclyde are deterred from buying their homes because of the appalling physical condition of the houses in which they live? Dampness is a major problem for many of my constituents and Inverclyde district council desperately needs help from the Scottish Office. When will the Minister provide the council with help so that the living conditions of my constituents can be improved to a level at which they might consider buying their houses?

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Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Allocations are made entirely on the basis of need. We shall introduce an effective right to repair for smaller repairs for council tenants and generally extend their present rights. I have visited the hon. Gentleman's constituency and I shall bear in mind his arguments before we next make allocations.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : Does my hon. Friend--[ Hon. Members :-- "Reading."]--comprehend the hypocrisy of the Labour party--

Hon. Members : Reading.

Madam Speaker : Order. All this takes time. Scottish Members will be complaining at the end of Question Time that they have not had long enough. Sir Nicholas Fairbairn.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : Does my hon. Friend understand the hypocrisy of the Labour party, which constantly and ceaselessly complains about homelessness but which paid the most expensive architect to erect the tower blocks at Royston Hill? After discovering that nobody wanted to live in them, it blew them up, at even more cost to the public purse, leaving the public to live in one cardboard box and the taxpayer to put his cheque in the other.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My hon. and learned Friend makes an important point. We have learnt a great deal and the type of tower block of which he speaks would not be built now. I strongly recommend that Glasgow district council bring in the private sector more, to assist it in dealing with empty housing, enabling public sector resources to go much further.


3. Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received regarding bypass construction on Scottish roads.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I have received representations from the hon. Member on bypass schemes in his constituency and was pleased that he was able to attend the opening of the A76 Cumnock and Auchinleck bypass last year. The Government have a steady programme of bypass construction and in addition have set out a number of ways in which safety and environmental improvements could be achieved in towns and villages, including traffic-calming schemes.

Mr. Foulkes : Yes, but does the Minister remember the letter that he sent to me on 15 May 1989, in which were set out scheme-ready dates for the Mauchline, New Cumnock, Maybole and Girvan bypasses of 1990, 1992, and 1993? Now the hon. Gentleman tells me that work will not start for at least five years on any of them. Will he think again about the priorities? He is syphoning money from those bypasses. I urge the hon. Gentleman to think again before communities are destroyed by the heavy lorries which come through the areas in which they live and to get the bypasses constructed. Otherwise I shall never be able to trust his word again.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that our strategy is to provide the bypasses that are most needed. The commitment to which he referred had to be reviewed in the light of available

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recources and the most pressing priorities in Scotland : the upgrading of the A74 to motorway status, the completion of the central Scotland motorway network, great improvements and full bypasses on the A96--which are going ahead--and great improvements to the A75, not to mention far-reaching proposals for the A1. We are spending 10 per cent. more on roads this year ; the expenditure on roads and bridges will be about £222 million. We believe in short-term measures as well to assist the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, including traffic- calming measures and village gateways to stop excessive congestion and speeding through villages in the constituency.

Steel Sites

5. Dr. Bray : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for the reclamation and redevelopment of steel sites in Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart) : Discussions continue between British Steel, Scottish Enterprise, Lanarkshire development agency and Motherwell district council on the steel sites in Scotland which remain in British Steel ownership, concerning the contribution that British Steel will make to the reclamation and redevelopment of these sites.

Dr. Bray : Is the Minister aware that Ravenscraig cast its last slab of steel this morning and that steel making has now ceased in Scotland? Does he accept that, to the end, Ravenscraig workers and the community that sustained them demonstrated the skills and responsibilities needed in a modern industry? Will he therefore accelerate the reclamation and redevelopment of the steel sites in Scotland so that Motherwell, and the people who have produced steel for generations, are able to continue to make a formidable contribution to the wealth of the nation in the future, as they have done in the past?

Mr. Stewart : I associate myself wholly with the sentiments expressed to the House by the hon. Gentleman regarding the steel workers of Ravenscraig and the communities that support them. As for his question about future work being done on the steel sites, I am encouraged by the agreement between British Steel and Scottish Enterprise on 15 April jointly to examine the best future use of the sites. The hon. Gentleman will, I think, know that the independent environmental audit that was recently commissioned by British Steel to examine the Ravenscraig site should help to identify the environmental issues better and to form an informed judgment on the way forward. I look forward to discussing later today the more detailed matters with the hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) and Motherwell district council.

Mr. Devlin : On behalf of the steel-making constituencies of Teesside, may I point out to my hon. Friend that when a steel plant closes and a massive slimming exercise takes place, as has happened in our part of the world, where 56,000 people lost their jobs during the early 1980s, it does not necessarily mean that that is the end of the road for the communities concerned? The work of British Steel Industries and other support agencies that came into the area-- [Interruption.]

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Madam Speaker : Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to make a speech to the House but to ask his question.

Mr. Devlin : Cannot other agencies that come in on the back of a steel closure of this magnitude lay the foundations for a very successful thriving economy for an area such as Motherwell in times to come?

Mr. Stewart : My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. It is now necessary for everyone to look forward to the future in Lanarkshire. I believe that that is what people are doing. We have poured in massive sums of public money. We have the enterprise zone. We have put in place a range of measures. Today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is approving £9.7 million expenditure by the Lanarkshire development agency for the development of phase 1 of the freight village at Mossend. About 1,600 jobs will result from phase 1 and the terminal there. The enterprise zone will result in 17,000 jobs, gross. We must, therefore, look to the future. That is what the Government are doing. That is what I believe the overwhelming majority of the people of Lanarkshire want to happen.

Dr. Reid : On the day when the last slab was cast in Motherwell after 112 years of steel making, may I pay my tribute to the steel workers and their families and say to the Minister that if his Government had shown half the dedication and commitment to the steel workers of Lanarkshire that the steel workers have shown to the industry, they would not be out of work today. Since the Minister and the Government have done damn all to save steel making in Motherwell over the past few years, will he at least give a pledge today that the Government will hold British Steel to its responsibility to provide finance for the reclamation of those steel sites? I want a concrete pledge today, because British Steel has produced nothing but pain in the past and has given us a present that is berefit of hope. It must not be allowed to destroy the future of Lanarkshire in the way that it has destroyed over the past 10 years.

Mr. Stewart : I reject the hon. Gentleman's allegation about the Government. I note that he did not mention the fact that when the Government came to office, British Steel was losing £1.86 billion a year, or about £5 million a day. That could not possibly continue. We must now look to the future. I pay tribute to the efforts of the steel workers. The Government are backing their commitment with real resources. I hope that members of the Labour party, who, I presume, want an improvement in the economy of Lanarkshire and more jobs in Lanarkshire, do not fall into the trap of talking down the area's prosperity.

Mr. Dewar : In the circumstances, I am a little surprised that the Secretary of State did not answer the question himself. I must say to the Minister that it seems to me that sympathy and tributes are not difficult to give, but we want a commitment that there will be a matching effort by the Government not only in the initial stages of the crisis facing the Lanarkshire economy but sustained over a considerable period so that a future can be built. Does the Minister accept that it is essential that British Steel take full responsibility for dealing with the legacy of dereliction and contamination that it is leaving behind? If British Steel does not accept that full responsibility, will the Minister take legal powers that will allow him to insist that in this case the polluter really pays?

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Mr. Stewart : We have not just paid tributes to the steel workers of Lanarkshire. The hon. Gentleman criticises the Government, but he never answers the question ; what would the Labour party have done if it had been in power? It would have done nothing that the Government have not done. Our commitment has been matched by funds, for the medium and long term certainly. I am discussing the details of reclamation and clearance with hon. Members, and the hon. Gentleman will know the legal framework within which the Government will have to operate.

NHS Trusts

6. Dr. Strang : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to alter the regulations governing hospital trusts ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Allan Stewart : The activities of NHS trusts in Scotland are monitored by the management executive of the national health service and, through contracts, by health boards purchasing the trust services. Should the interests of patient care require alteration of the regulations, the Government will do that. For the moment, we have no such plans.

Dr. Strang : Is there not a real danger that individual hospital trusts will undermine strategic planning by health boards? Could not a situation arise in Lothian whereby the health board will provide orthopaedic facilities in the new major hospital to be built just outside Edinburgh, but when that hospital comes into service the Princess Margaret Rose, which has become a trust, will continue to provide the same service, especially as many of its customers might well be GP fund holders and customers from outwith the health board's area?

Mr. Stewart : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State have made it clear again and again that the services provided by the trusts will be determined by the contract entered into by the health boards. On the exceedingly rare occasions when a trust and a health board could disagree on the nature of services to be provided--the thought which is at the back of the hon. Gentleman's question--I confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has the power of direction.

Mr. Dickens : Why does my hon. Friend think that the Scottish nation should be denied the excellence of national health service trust hospitals? After all, in England are they not a great success, treating many more patients than ever before--in fact, 6 per cent. more? That is patient care, and it is coming to Scotland. That is the beauty of the Union of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Stewart : I am happy to reassure my hon. Friend that the undoubted benefits of hospital trusts, to which he rightly refers, are of course coming to Scotland. There have been 18 expressions of interest, and my hon. Friend will be interested to know that among those expressing interest are the West Lothian unit in Livingston and Monklands district general hospital.

Mr. Watson : The Minister will know that one of those 18 expressions of interest came from the Victoria infirmary in my constituency, which also serves part of his constituency. Will he give a commitment that, before considering whether to allow the opt-out, he will consult

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the people who use the hospital, and the community as a whole? Will he take on board their views or will he, as I suspect, deny them a say, just as he is denying the people of Scotland a say in their constitutional future through a referendum? He is doing that because he knows what the outcome would be--it would show that he was totally out of step with the people of Scotland and has no right or legitimacy to speak on their behalf.

Mr. Stewart : I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I do not accept the views of Scotland United on such matters. In answer to his other question, we have made it clear several times that we do not see ballots, either within the hospital concerned or in the broader locality, as a basis for determining trust status. The public consultation phase lasts three months and provides ample opportunity for the views of staff and public to be known. The hon. Gentleman referred specifically to the Victoria infirmary and may be interested to know that I saw four consultants last Saturday morning-- [Interruption.] I must inform hon. Members that I hold constituency surgeries on Saturday mornings. I saw the four consultants because they are constituents of mine and had points to put to me.


7. Mr. Welsh : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list those organisations which he had met as part of the Prime Minster's taking stock exercise in relation to the government of Scotland ; and when he expects to come forward with proposals.

14. Mr. Galloway : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what further stock he has taken on the future governance of Scotland ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang : We are continuing our consideration of arrangements for the governance of Scotland and will report back to the House in due course.

Mr. Welsh : Is not it true that the Government have no new ideas or proposals and are not willing to put the constitutional issue to the voters of Scotland? If private industry took as long over stocktaking as the Prime Minister does, it would end up bankrupt. Is not "taking stock" a cynical exercise in doing nothing at all?

Mr. Lang : No, it is not. After 13 years in office, the Government are bubbling over with new ideas in all areas of policy, as the hon. Gentleman will see if he reads our general election manifesto. The Government are indeed taking stock and we shall present our proposals, which I am sure will interest the hon. Gentleman, when they are ready.

Mr. Galloway : Having padlocked our steel industry today and having already murdered our coal and shipbuilding industries and decimated our engineering industry, the Government do not even have the guts to face the people of Scotland in a democratic test at the ballot box--a referendum. Why are the people of Denmark and France to be given a democratic referendum to decide their constitutional future in Europe, yet we in Scotland are denied the chance of a referendum on our democratic future? Why do we not have a referendum on Maastricht and Britain's future in Europe--and on Scotland's future in Britain? Why do the Government not have the guts to face the music in a democratic test?

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Mr. Lang : The hon. Gentleman speaks with all the authority of a rave promoter at a time when raves are going out of fashion. If attendances at his raves continue to fall at the present rate, he will soon be able to hold them in his back garden. The Government had the guts to face the electorate in a general election. That was our multi-option referendum--and the electorate of the United Kingdom turned their backs on separation and devolution-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. Has the Secretary of State finished his answer? I could not hear.

Mr. Lang : Yes.

Mr. Biffen : Will my right hon. Friend use this opportunity to assess what subsidiarity offers him in regard to the scope and discharge of his duties? In view of the widespread interest in this topic, will he ensure that he reports back to the House before we return from the summer recess? Above all, will he confirm that he will assess subsidiarity in relation to Scotland on the basis that Scotland is an historic nation state, not a cap-in-hand Euro-region?

Mr. Lang : My right hon. Friend need have no doubt about the Conservatives' recognition of Scotland's importance, both in historic national terms and in terms of its part and place within the United Kingdom. All our consideration of proposals will take place against a background of determination to uphold both Scotland's place within the United Kingdom, and the integrity of the Union.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson : Is it not strange that the Opposition parties daily betray their obsession with the idea of the Government taking stock, while at the same time arrogantly dismissing the greatest stock- taking exercise of all--that undertaken by the people of Scotland in the general election? Will my right hon. Friend remind the Opposition that, when the Scottish people took stock, it was the Conservatives who increased their vote and their representation?

Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A substantial majority of the Scottish electorate voted for parties that support the Union. The difference between the Opposition and the Government is that we regard the constitution of the United Kingdom as something to be cherished and guarded, while they regard it as a political plaything to be used to their advantage.

Mr. Canavan : Will the Secretary of State remind his hon. Friends that, in the recent general election, three quarters of Scottish voters rejected the Tory Government and supported parties that were committed to the establishment of a Scottish Parliament? Let me take the right hon. Gentleman back to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway). Why is he so reluctant to accept that the most democratic way of taking stock would be to let the people decide in a multi-option referendum? Is he afraid that the outcome of such a referendum would show overwhelming rejection of the status quo, and overwhelming support for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament?

Mr. Lang : The hon. Gentleman forgets that before polling day his party was opposed to a referendum on constitutional matters. Labour Members planned to force

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through the establishment of a Scottish Parliament without such a referendum ; only since the election have they changed their tune. They planned to take power with a minority of votes, and to use that as a basis on which to force their policies through, without engaging in the consultation that they now regard as essential.

Mr. Rowe : Is my right hon. Friend aware that, during the general election campaign in my part of the country--where there is not a single Labour Member--the number of people in my constituency, including a large number of Scots who had taken advantage of the historic Union to come south and make their fortunes-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. I have stopped other hon. Members who have not put their question. I am now waiting to hear the question that the hon. Gentleman is about to ask the Secretary of State.

Mr. Rowe : Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was widespread support for the Union of the United Kingdom, and will he comment?

Mr. Lang : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that that support was reflected in the general election result. The Labour party proposed devolution throughout the United Kingdom, but it was in Scotland, where the proposal was most detailed, that the swing against them was most substantial.

Mr. Dewar : If there is a continuing dispute about the opinions of the Scottish public--which there clearly is--why does not the Secretary of State consider a referendum as a way of deciding the issue, given that he is so confident that he is right?

The Secretary of State will recall the pledge made by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the Minister of State, Scottish Office. Lord Fraser said that the Government were committed to constitutional change that was "substantial and not cosmetic". Does he still stand by that? If the Secretary of State is indeed bubbling over with new ideas, will he tell us when just one of them--however modest--will be allowed to creep into the public domain?

Mr. Lang : I know that the hon. Gentleman used that quotation in good faith, but I have to tell him that it is a misquotation. I shall be happy to explain to him afterwards, at greater length and in detail, why and how that is so. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, however, that the Government are taking stock of the matter and will bring forward proposals and lay them before the House when they have considered them fully.

Local Authorities

8. Mr. Oppenheim : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has any plans for unitary local authorities in Scotland.

Mr. Lang : The Government propose, subject to further extensive consultation, to move towards the introduction of single-tier councils throughout Scotland. I intend to issue a second consultation paper in the autumn setting out a range of illustrative options for the new structure.

Mr. Oppenheim : Would not unitary authorities have a number of important advantages, including cutting out costly and sometimes confusing overlaps in responsibilities

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and increasing accountability? Would not such enhanced unitary authorities have the added bonus of providing an appropriate platform for many Opposition Members to display their undoubted talents and abilities?

Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the greater strength and coherence that can derive from single-tier authorities. I regard the possible development of single-tier authorities in Scotland as a way of strengthening local government and making it more coherent, more readily identifiable with local areas and more accountable to local electorates.

Mr. Tom Clarke : Does the Secretary of State accept that many Opposition Members know a little more about Scottish local government than the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim)? Does the right hon. Gentleman also accept, given the short period that has elapsed since the Wheatley report and the reorganisation of Scottish local government in 1975, that the local authorities have acted well and in the interests of Scotland, despite the enormous constraints and demands placed on them by the Government, who are perceived in Scotland as an anti-local government Government? That being so, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why in England it is possible to have a commission to review local government whereas in Scotland it is not?

Mr. Lang : I certainly pay tribute to the dedication and professionalism of many involved in local government and to the efficiency with which many local authorities, both regional and district, deliver local services. Nevertheless, events have moved on substantially and quickly over the two decades since the Wheatley commission reported. As regards a changing role for local authorities, we see considerable advantage in moving towards single-tier authorities. However, we shall be introducing another consultation paper in the autumn which will enable further extensive consultation to take place.

Mr. Worthington : Will the Secretary of State confirm that local people want democratically elected and locally accountable councils to run their services? Can he further confirm that he intends that all services that are currently run by local government will continue to be run by local government and, in particular, that education will be run by local government in the future? Will he confirm that that is so?

Mr. Lang : I certainly support the hon. Gentleman's belief in strengthening local democracy. Part of our purpose in bringing forward the reforms is to strengthen local democracy, not to undermine it. The hon. Gentleman asked about the handling of individual services, and that is a matter on which we shall wish to consult widely. It would be quite wrong for me to give a commitment of any kind on any particular service at this stage. I look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman's reaction to our consultation paper when it appears.

Sunday Trading

9. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received about the Scottish law on Sunday trading.

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Mr. Lang : Since the beginning of this year, I have received two representations advocating the imposition of restrictions on Sunday trading in Scotland.

Mr. Marshall : I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, which shows that the majority of Scottish people are satisfied with total deregulation. Does he agree, therefore, that it would be immoral, illogical and hypocritical for Scottish Members to vote to impose upon the people of England and Wales restrictions that do not apply in Scotland?

Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend puts his point effectively. I would simply say that it would be impertinent for me, as a Scottish Minister, to advance my view on what my English colleagues should do with regard to shop hours in England.

Mr. Macdonald : Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that there are problems with the law on Sunday trading in Scotland, particularly in respect of the lack of protection for employees who do not want to work on Sundays? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore undertake to look again at the legislation to see whether better protection might be provided for employees who, because of their religious convictions, do not want to work on Sundays?

Mr. Lang : That is a matter for negotiation within the various industries and with the various unions involved. I am not aware of any great dissatisfaction. As I said, I have received only two representations about the matter this year. I believe that the arrangements in Scotland work pretty well and are infinitely adaptable to suit the needs of all concerned.

Fishing Industry

10. Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the consequences of the one-net rule for the village-based fishing industry.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Sir Hector Monro) : The one-net rule forms part of a package of measures to improve conservation of fish stocks. The package is important for the future well-being of the industry. Certain groups of fishermen are concerned about the implications of the rule and I am keeping the matter under review.

Mr. Campbell : Does the Minister accept that that answer will bring no comfort to the fishing industry in Scotland and in particular, to that part of the industry located in my constituency? The Minister must understand that the imposition of the one-net rule, without changes to the by-catch regulations, is likely to cause a large number of fishermen to move from prawn fishing to white fishing. The one-net rule will have the reverse effect : it will bring increasing pressure to bear on fish stocks. Why are the Government so supine in their efforts to protect the village- based fishing industry in Scotland?

Sir Hector Monro : I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman does not seem to understand conservation. It is absolutely crucial that there are greater restrictions than at present if there is to be a fishing future for Scotland--and I am very keen that that should be so. I have said

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that I am considering the situation. The rule has been in force for only three weeks. If there is evidence and good reason, I will give it further consideration.

Mrs. Ewing : Does not the Minister realise that the measure, as currently proposed and implemented, is not working to the benefit of conservation? I endorse all the points made by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell). Why do Ministers responsible for fisheries in Scotland consistently bring back regulations which are not EC- wide, but which apply solely to Scotland to the disadvantage of our fishing communities, which are extremely important for our rural economies and for ensuring the viability of many other communities?

Sir Hector Monro : Of course I share the hon. Lady's view that fishing is vital to rural areas in Scotland. However, she must also understand that if there are no fish, there will be no industry. That is why we have to be so strict on conservation. The hon. Lady must also understand that under the by-catch rule, there may be a 60 per cent. catch of white fish. If that is insufficient, the fishermen can go home to harbour and change to a larger mesh and start again.

Juvenile Crime

11. Mr. Norman Hogg : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet the chief constables to discuss juvenile crime.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State meets chief constables from time to time to discuss a wide range of policing issues. Also, my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State has today invited chief constables to meet him to consider the substantial and alarming increase in the illegal use of shotguns and other firearms.

Mr. Hogg : Does the Minister accept that there is some correlation between juvenile crime and under-age drinking? Will he introduce proposals to strengthen the licensing laws so that they are better able to control abuse? Will he also try to speed up the report on drinking in public places with a view to extending it to the whole of Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : We have reformed the law on licensing. We stiffened up the law in respect of late-night licences where there was evidence of disorder. The byelaws and experimental schemes that are in operation will be reviewed in due course and we will then consider, when it is appropriate, whether they should be extended throughout Scotland. However, that is still some months away.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : Does my hon. Friend comprehend that frequently what is forbidden is preferred and the fact that in Scotland on Sunday one can shop and do what one likes, which has always been the norm in Scotland--

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