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Column 279and Loudoun district council on housing business. Officials told him then that there is a desire among tenants now in Scottish Homes houses to transfer directly to that council. We seek an extension of democracy, so that all the choices are available to tenants. It would save time and money if those choices were given to tenants now.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : It will, of course, be for Scottish Homes to decide whether there are special housing circumstances which would make the local authority an appropriate alternative landlord. I expect that in coming to a conclusion Scottish Homes will weigh three factors--the number of properties involved, their location, and the percentage of houses already held by local authorities. I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that his local council already has a relatively high percentage of the stock in his constituency. No doubt that will be one of the factors that Scottish Homes will weigh during the process.
Mr. Lang : Our proposals for the reform of Scottish child care policy and law are set out in the White Paper, "Scotland's Children", which we published last August. We hope to bring forward a Bill when we are ready to do so.
Mr. Marshall : Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is anomalous that children in Scotland do not have the same protection that children in England receive under the 1989 Act? Can he tell me what representations he has received since the White Paper was published last August?
Mr. Lang : I assure my hon. Friend that we attach every bit as much importance to that subject in Scotland as is attached to it south of the border. The procedures are different, and have been different for a long time, in some respects. I do not see a weakness in that, so long as the provisions are efficient. As for representations, the publication of the White Paper was itself the culmination of a protracted and prolonged consultation process, and it draws together a number of submissions and reports on issues that have been the subject of consultation, to help us to develop an integrated approach to that important subject.
Dr. Godman : Why are Ministers and their compliant officials dragging their feet on this important issue? The English legislation went through the House six years ago. As convenor of the Scottish all-party group on children and child law reform, I tell the Secretary of State that there is a critical need for such legislation, especially for children with disabilities and special needs--and the disruption to local government that will be caused by the Secretary of State's appalling legislation makes that need even more critical. Those children should be at the forefront of legislation going through the House now.
Mr. Lang : Legislation is certainly necessary on some aspects of our proposals, but we should keep the matter in perspective. A substantial proportion of the proposals that have been the subject of consultation and are touched on in the White Paper can be implemented, and indeed are being
Column 280implemented, without the need for legislation. However, where legislation is needed we shall introduce it at the appropriate time.
Mr. Trimble : I notice that there is a similar delay with the equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland, where we, too, are five years behind the English legislation. Is it a matter of policy to delay the legislation, or are there particular problems in framing it, as in Northern Ireland, where there seems to be a lack of resources in the parliamentary draftsman's office? Is there the same problem in Scotland?
Mr. Lang : I am happy to be able to reassure the hon. Gentleman that there is no such problem in Scotland. Indeed, a substantial number of provisions are already being implemented. When we are ready to introduce considered legislation for the remainder we shall not hesitate to do so.
Mrs. Fyfe : In the International Year of the Family, has the Secretary of State realised that, to our shame, we have the worst child care in Europe, and that we have been waiting for more than five years for a children Act? His White Paper last August claimed that such a Bill was a priority, yet there was not a word about it in the Queen's Speech. Clearly, gerrymandering local authority boundaries has a higher priority than looking after children. Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) mean that we shall have to look for bits and pieces of legislation tacked on to other Acts? When are we ever to have a decent, comprehensive children Act, such as one, as hon. Members have pointed out, which was passed in England five years ago? Why is the Secretary of State so neglectful of children in Scotland?
Mr. Lang : The hon. Lady considerably misrepresents the position and I am surprised that, above all, in an area which should not be subject to cross-party dispute, she should seek to talk Scotland down. The provisions for Scotland are already in place, are in operation and are envied worldwide. The children's hearing system, especially, is something which many other countries look to with considerable admiration.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart) : The needs of Glasgow are fully taken into account in the level of central Government support to Glasgow district council, in accordance with the principles agreed with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in the distribution committee. We are also making available extensive resources for Glasgow through Scottish Homes, Scottish Enterprise and other agencies, as well as the urban programme.
Mr. Marshall : Has the Minister read the Glasgow poverty profile produced by Glasgow district council? Is not he horrified at the appalling health and unemployment statistics? Is he aware that people living in Glasgow are two and a half times more likely to die before reaching retirement age than those living in more affluent areas?
Column 281Does not he realise that poverty is killing people in Glasgow? Will he accept the health board's recommendation that special targeting and expansion of investments is absolutely essential, or do his Government not give a damn about the poor?
Mr. Stewart : After decades of municipal socialism in housing, in planning and in education, I am not at all surprised that there are problems in Glasgow. The hon. Gentleman mentioned unemployment and I hope that he is pleased that unemployment in his constituency has dropped by well over 500 in the past year--2,500 down on the figures for January 1987.
I emphasise the facts to the hon. Gentleman that Glasgow district council-- [Interruption.] If hon. Members would listen, they would find some figures of great interest to them. Glasgow district council receives the highest Government support per tax unit of any district council in Scotland, 40 per cent. of the urban programme is spent in Glasgow and in housing, in the current year, Glasgow district council receives £88.2 million for its housing revenue account and £25 million for its non- housing revenue account. There are many other parts of Scotland that look with great envy on those figures.
Mr. Wray : Does the Minister agree that poverty and deprivation bring crime and drug abuse? Is he aware that the baron trade of drugs is bringing in around £188 million in Glasgow, feeding 12,000 addicts? The addicts are feeding themselves with tamazepan, tenagesic, cannabis, lysergic acid diethylamide, librium and valium. What will the Government do about the fact that many youngsters find the morgue a common place in Glasgow?
Mr. Stewart : I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a serious problem of drug abuse in Glasgow. As hon. Members will hear in answer to a later question tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy), we have set up a Scottish drugs task force. I have no doubt that, if the question is reached, my right hon. Friend will be able to detail fully the Government's measures.
Mr. Davidson : Does the Minister agree that one of the main causes of poverty in Glasgow is unemployment? Would he agree that the management and trade unions of Kvaerner in Govan should be applauded for its new adult apprenticeship scheme which was launched yesterday to retrain workers who are surplus to requirements? Would he also agree that the decision by Scottish and Glasgow Enterprise to recommend that that company should sack those workers before they are eligible for Government assistance is to be deplored? What does the Minister expect people who are made unemployed from shipbuilding in Govan to do? Does he expect them to start sheep ranching? Will he consider resigning?
Mr. Stewart : If the hon. Gentleman is asking me to resign, the answer is no. With regard to Kvaerner Govan, the Government look to employers to train their own work forces, as employers benefit most from such investment. With regard to training for work, the programme to which the hon. Gentleman specifically referred, funding is finite and must be targeted where the need is greatest. Therefore, we are specifically targeting training for work at people who are unemployed for six months or more. That group
Column 282needs most help to get back to work. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that two thirds of those who become unemployed leave the register within six months.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Education authorities in Scotland are required by law to provide religious education in their schools. Guidance is set out by the Scottish Office Education Department, by circular and in national guidelines on religious and moral education which form part of Scotland's five to 14 curriculum programme. These confirm the Government's support for religious education.
Mr. Greenway : May I urge my hon. Friend to stick to religious education in all schools, that it be Christian centred and not influenced by the absurd recommendations of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority of England which suggests that children up to the age of 16 shall study five world religions? Does my hon. Friend agree that studies of that kind will lead to no knowledge of any world religion? That will be a denial of civilisation which is based on Christendom. Christianity should be the centre of religious education with only one other religion at the most.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : We put the emphasis on that right in our guidelines. We have made it clear that Christianity, as the main religion in Scotland, will form a major part of religious education. The guidance is that syllabuses of religious education should, in all schools, be based on Christianity as the main religious tradition of Scotland. However, they should also take account of the teaching and practice of other principal religions. The guidelines are clear in their intention to ensure awareness of all the main world religions. We do everything in our power to ensure that the values of honesty, liberty, justice, fairness and respect for human dignity are implemented in that process.
Mr. Dalyell : What response is the Scottish Office making to the concerns of Archbishop Winning that the local government proposals would undermine the capacity for Roman Catholic education in Scotland?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : We expect to see maximum continuity in schools. There are provisions in the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill to deal with that and we expect to debate them fully in Standing Committee. No changes are proposed with regard to the existing statutory provisions on Catholic education.
Mr. George Robertson : Returning to Archbishop Winning's letter to all hon. Members, may I draw the Minister's attention to what Archbishop Winning calls his real and growing fear about the impact of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill on Catholic schools in Scotland? The Minister must recognise that Archbishop Winning's concerns about the arbitrary and wholly ill-considered plans in the Bill for school catchment areas are shared by many others in Scotland of other denominations and of none.
Column 283Will the Minister now recognise that the expensive plan for butchering Scottish local government should be put back until there has been proper consideration through an independent review into all the implications for areas as vital as the education of Scotland's children?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The sooner we are in Standing Committee, the sooner we will debate those matters fully and in depth. Local government boundaries should not adversely affect Catholic schools or the existing provision for Catholic education.
Mr. Stewart : My noble and learned Friend the Minister of State recently announced the distribution of funds totalling more than £3 billion to health boards for 1994-95, which, together with efficiency savings, gives an increase of 5.3 per cent. in available resources. It is for individual health boards to use the resources provided to take forward initiatives that will secure continuing reductions in waiting times.
Mrs. Michie : Is the Minister aware of the waiting list initiative at Canniesburn hospital, whereby patients from health boards in the west of Scotland will be offered treatment in the private sector in Glasgow or south of the border? Is it not ludicrous that national health service surgeons should have to tackle the backlog within the private sector? Will the Minister therefore confirm that my constituents in the Argyll and Clyde health board area who require such treatment might have to travel to England for it? If that is so, the once proud national health service in Scotland has reached a pretty pass.
Mr. Stewart : I can tell the hon. Lady precisely what the situation is. There has been insufficient capacity at Canniesburn hospital to treat all remaining "long waiters" for plastic surgery, which I think is what the hon. Lady refers to. Therefore, Greater Glasgow health board, with the other west of Scotland health boards, took an initiative. It put the contract out to a full competitive tendering exercise, and it went to the Bon Secour Health System, which is held in the highest regard. I thought that the hon. Lady would have welcomed that extra provision for her constituents.
Mr. Bill Walker : Does my hon. Friend agree that when the waiting lists and waiting times in the Glen Garry and Meigle catchment areas were calculated, future projections of population trends were taken into consideration? If so, will my hon. Friend confirm that the figures will be made available? The regional authority, the local authority and most of my constituents believe that calculations on the future of Meigle cottage hospital are flawed and consequently should be looked at again.
Mr. Stewart : I appreciate that my hon. Friend is speaking a constituency Member. I assure him that either my noble Friend the Minister of State or I will be very happy to meet him to discuss the detailed figures which lay behind the decision on Meigle hospital.
Column 284of Grangemouth before the festive season? Their bodies lay undiscovered for seven weeks. The child died of starvation. Will the Minister join Opposition Members in passing on the Government's deepest sympathy to the family, the neighbours and the town of Grangemouth? I am not trying to allocate blame, but will the Minister assure me that there will be an internal inquiry to find out how the bodies of a nine-month-old child and an insulin-dependent mother could lie undiscovered for such a long period?
Mr. Stewart : I join the hon. Gentleman's expressions of concern and sympathy to the relatives and friends involved. I assure him that an inquiry is under way. My noble Friend the Minister of State will be happy to meet him to discuss the matter.
Mr. Kynoch : Is my hon. Friend aware that Aberdeen Royal hospital, an NHS trust, the formation of which all Opposition parties opposed, is now treating a record number of in-patients, out-patients and day patients, and is carrying out a record number of operations? Is not that the best way to reduce waiting lists? The sooner that Opposition parties realise that our reforms are working in the best interests of patients, the better.
Mr. Stewart : My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the concrete facts, which indicate that trust status works and improves services to patients. Clearly, Opposition Members have lost the battle over trust status. The Government have gone from strength to strength in terms of improvements, which are there for people to see for themselves.
Mr. Ernie Ross : The Minister may believe that, but I draw his attention to constituents of mine, such as the man of 72 who was approach my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) at church on Sunday. This 72-year-old man had to be helped into church, having waited for four months for an angiogram. The Minister cannot dodge his responsibility for the waiting lists, which continue as a result of his failure to provide proper funding for the health service.
Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot comment on the individual case to which he refers, as I do not know the details. However, I can say that the funds allocated by my noble Friend the Minister of State will allow for an increase of 2.5 per cent. next year in the number of patients treated. That is over and above the increase of 28 per cent. per annum in the number of in-patients treated in 1993 compared with 1979, and represents an increase of 225 per cent. in the number of day patients treated during that period. These figures, beyond any shadow of dispute, indicate a pattern of continued improvements in health care in Scotland under the Conservative Government.
Column 285State, has had three meetings and is meeting again on Friday 28 January. It expects to publish its report by the summer.
Mr. McAvoy : Is the Minister aware that a survey conducted recently by the Greater Glasgow health board confirmed that 12,000 Glasgow patients are considered to be misusing drugs? Does the hon. Gentleman know that in 1991 there were 24 sudden deaths among drug injectors in Glasgow and that in 1992 the figure rose to 73? The majority of the people involved live in deprived areas. The links between deprivation and drug abuse are clear and proven. This is a really tragic situation, which is affecting more and more people. When will the Government fund a strategy to tackle it?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I can say, first, that we shall consider very carefully the submissions of the Greater Glasgow health board. But drug misuse is not confined to any one section of society. Under the urban programme, we are currently funding about 20 drugs-related projects in Scotland, at a cost of some £1.6 million. We look forward to receiving the recommendations of the Select Committee and the representations by the task force of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), which was set up recently. The Scottish Office task force, which has 16 members, will give this matter very high priority indeed.
Mr. McAllion : Does the Minister accept that there is a link between drug abuse and the prevalence of poverty and housing deprivation? If so, when will he do something about the 423,000 houses in Scotland that are affected by damp, serious condensation or mould? In particular, what will he do about the fact that, in the main, these damp-ridden boxes are inhabited by pensioners, people who are sick or disabled and benefit claimants? Does he agree that it is tragic that, as opposed to the situation in Westminster, there will be no designated housing or social policy for these people? Unlike the people in Westminster who benefit from Tory policies, people in Scotland do not vote Tory and are therefore punished.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The targeting of resources to where they are needed most is absolutely necessary. I refer, for example, to the treatment of houses that are severely damp. We have submitted to local authorities' recommendations on this matter and on the question of housing that is below tolerable standard. I can confirm that the urban programme will include a very sympathetic look at applications relating to areas with an especially high incidence of drug abuse.
We need a concerted approach, not just by the police but by the social work, education and health authorities. Expenditure arising from drug- related problems is currently about £40 million a year. That is evidence of the fact that we take this matter very seriously indeed.
Mr. McFall : It is a step forward that we now have ministerial recognition that there is a serious drug problem in Scotland. Does the Minister realise that the main problem lies with young people aged under 24 who comprise 55 per cent. of the drug misusing population? Research from the Greater Glasgow health board and the Home Office shows without doubt that heavy drug abuse is most prevalent in areas that are characterised by high unemployment, low income and inadequate housing, giving rise to a situation of hopelessness with young people.
Does the Minister accept as a first principle that one cannot tackle the ever-increasing drug problem without dealing with its causes? Is not it time for a deprivation policy to be urgently included in the Government's timetable?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : What is absolutely necessary is to have a co-ordinated policy, and that is why we have had a national campaign using media publicity. That is aimed specifically at deterring young people from using illegal drugs. It is also directed at parents, because they can play a vital role in discouraging their children from engaging in that extremely undesirable and dangerous pursuit. Those matters, as I have mentioned, will be taken seriously.
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