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Mr. Salmond : As Ravenscraig was probably sacrificed by British Steel as its entry price into a European cartel on other steel products, would it not be outrageous if British Steel escaped any of its obligations or if the site remained undeveloped because of a lack of political will and initiative from the Government ? In view of the behaviour of British Steel and British Gas towards their customers and work forces in Scotland, what does the Minister think is the common factor--the fact that both were privatised or the fact that both were British ?
Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman may have missed my earlier reassurance. I reassured the House that British Steel would meet its obligations, especially those in relation to surface contamination. However, there are positive proposals for the regeneration of the area, such as that from St. Andrews university for a university college. That is a positive proposal from an excellent university which has outstanding graduates such as the hon. Gentleman as well as the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and others.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The Forestry Commission has undertaken research on the spread of the Dutch elm disease fungus, mostly concentrating on measures and strategies for its control. The commission conducts periodic reviews of the geographic spread of the disease. It is endemic throughout Britain except for some parts of north Scotland.
Mr. Pawsey : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that especially complete and helpful reply. Can he say whether there is any feasible chemical treatment which might be used to protect young trees ? I listened with care to what he said about the spread throughout the United Kingdom, but is there any evidence to suggest that Dutch elm disease is more prevalent in some areas than in others ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : It most certainly is more prevalent in some regions. For example, in Scotland the wych elm is more resistant to Dutch elm disease than the elms in the south. I am well aware of my hon. Friend's great interest in that subject. The Forestry Commission is undertaking research into such fungicide injections, which will include viruses to reduce the capacity of the Dutch elm disease fungus to damage elms. It is also doing research into genetic engineering of the English elm to increase resistance to the disease. As I have said, however, wych elm in Scotland is far more resistant, which goes to show that that type of tree is flourishing north of the border.
Mr. Galloway : Has the commission run any tests to ascertain the extent of the spread of Dutch elm disease in the cheap balsa wood Cabinet that runs the country ? Is it not the case that, like a line of trees affected by Dutch elm disease--thick, hollow and rotten at the core--that Cabinet will be felled by the British electorate on 9 June ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is no, but he has a serious point. I once had to bring back a present of a wooden boat from the St. Lucian Parliament to the Speaker of this House. Unfortunately, there was a beetle inside which had eaten it by the time the Speaker received it. We always have to watch for the enemy within.
Mr. Lang : My officials actively promote Scotland as a location for investment both by indigenous companies and by inward investors. Securing re-investment by existing inward investors is an increasingly important part of Locate in Scotland's work and I have asked it to devote additional resources to that task.
Mr. Riddick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that although in the past 15 years the Conservative Government have created the right climate for investment--with measures such as trade union reform, privatisation and
Column 330deregulation--Governments also have the capacity to stifle investment ? Does he agree that Labour party policies such as giving power back to the trade unions, imposing a minimum wage on industry and embracing the job-destroying social chapter would bring investment in Scotland and the United Kingdom to a grinding halt ?
Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not insignificant that the United Kingdom has secured no less than 40 per cent. of all the inward investment that has come into the single market from outside. That is because we have resisted such measures as those that my hon. Friend mentions. It is no wonder that President Jacques Delors said that the United Kingdom was a paradise for inward investment.
Mr. Chisholm : Is not the real problem the fact that we are second bottom of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development league in terms of manufacturing investment, which is leading to a decline in the number of manufacturing jobs in Scotland, as evidenced by the announcement last week of further redundancies at Peebles Electric in my constituency ? Why could the Secretary of State yesterday only make a do-nothing addendum to the pathetic paper from the President of the Board of Trade ? As he obviously has no ideas of his own, may I suggest that he invests in a copy of Labour's alternative policy paper, to be launched next week ?
Mr. Lang : Labour's policy would drive inward investment out of the United Kingdom. The Labour party would take on all the extra labour costs espoused by their socialist partners in Europe. That is precisely the distinction between the two parties in the coming European election. As for manufacturing, I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that output in Scotland rose by 2.5 per cent. last year, and the prediction is that it will rise substantially this year. Indeed, our manufactured exports were at a record level of some £11 billion last year.
Mr. Stewart : At the end of 1993, 94 per cent. of patients had had their first out-patient appointments within 18 weeks following general practitioner referral--up from 92 per cent. the previous year. Ninety-two per cent. had waited less than 12 months for admission for treatment--up from 89 per cent. in 1992. Those are noteworthy achievements and I confidently expect further improvement as health boards work to reduce their waiting time guarantees.
Mr. Graham : We have heard of the terrible waiting times for constituents in need of hospital treatment. I am quite appalled. Why are the undertakings in the Prime Minister's citizens charter concerning consultant appointments and surgery not being honoured in my constituency or elsewhere in Scotland ? I have here a document showing the appalling waiting times. People have to wait five or six months for a first appointment, and then months and
Column 331months for critical operations. When will the Government get their finger out and ensure that people receive the treatment that they need and deserve ?
Mr. Stewart : There has been a continuous and gradual reduction in waiting lists despite the 28 per cent. increase in the number of in- patients since 1979 and the 225 per cent. increase in the number of day treatments. Those are the real figures. In the case of the Royal Alexandra hospital trust in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, the waiting time for ophthalmology treatment is the lowest in Scotland. I accept that in the hon. Gentleman's constituency there has been a problem with regard to urology. This is a new specialty, and demand has exceeded supply. There have been higher than expected levels of activity. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that these have been fully taken into account in the contract for the next year.
Mr. Burns : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is rather sad that certain Opposition Members cannot give credit for the improvements that the figures he has given indicate ? Does he agree that the significant improvements in the health service in Scotland would be set back if there were a national minimum wage ?
Mr. Stewart : My hon. Friend is absolutely right on both points. It constantly astonishes me that Opposition Members, while they say that they are committed to the health service, take every possible opportunity to criticise it and to create alarm and despondency where none should exist. I will give my hon. Friend an important figure : our public expenditure commitments will represent an increase of 2.5 per cent. in the number of day and in-patients in Scotland next year. That is a measure of the Government's real and practical commitment to the national health service in Scotland.
Mr. Charles Kennedy : Will the Minister ask his right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State, who is responsible for health matters, to have specific discussions with the management of the NHS trust at Raigmore hospital in Inverness in view of that body's recent statement that it is having great problems with regard to recruiting and retaining specialists because of what it describes as national shortages in key clinical areas ? This is creating very great concern and controversy in the highlands, and the Scottish Office must give it the utmost priority.
Mr. Stewart : I accept that the hon. Gentleman is representing his constituents with regard to this matter. I know that the point has been made to my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State, who will be in touch with the hon. Gentleman specifically concerning the point that he has raised.
Mr. Foulkes : Are not doctors being urged to discharge patients far too early in an effort to reduce the waiting list ? Does the Minister recall that the figures that he gave me for Ayrshire showed a doubling in the number of top administrators in Ayrshire and a reduction of 300 nurses ? That is what is happening in the health service. Is it not appalling that when the chairman of the South Ayrshire national health service trust, Douglas Brown, writes to me he talks about his enterprise and not his health care units ?
Column 332use of resources in the health service. The effective use of resources will maximise the standards of care in the health service, which is the whole objective of the Government's reforms.
Lord Douglas-Hamilton : The amount spent on new construction and improvement of motorways and trunk roads in Scotland was £172 million in 1990-91, £175 million in 1991-92, £198 million in 1992-93 and £196 million in 1993-94. Our continuing commitment to a sustained level of investment in our road network is demonstrated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland's announcement last week which set out the Government's plans for the next three years.
Mr. Robertson : Is my hon. Friend aware that, thanks to the Government, Aberdeen is now linked by dual carriageway to the nation's motorway network for the first time and that it is possible to drive on roads of either dual carriageway standard or motorway standard from Aberdeen to Istanbul ? Does he agree that that is good news for businesses in the north-east of Scotland, holidaymakers in Aberdeen and tourists from Turkey ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : It is good for business and for tourism and it is an encouraging step. We also intend to upgrade the A90 between Perth and Aberdeen to near motorway standard in the medium to long term, but this is a substantial step at this stage.
Mr. Norman Hogg : The Minister will be aware that yesterday there was a serious accident in my constituency resulting in fatalities and injuries and I know that he will wish to join me in sending sympathy to the bereaved relatives and to the injured. Will he undertake to write to me setting out the position that has been reached in relation to the upgrading of the A80 and the construction of the M80 motorway between Stepps and Haggs ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : First, I should like to be associated with the hon. Gentleman in sending sympathy to the families concerned. Of course there will be a full police inquiry which will be reported in due course.
The emphasis in future will be placed on achieving progress on upgrading the central Scotland motorway network and also on upgrading the A74 to motorway standard and upgrading the A1. The hon. Gentleman's point will certainly be remembered.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : According to the Registrar General's latest estimates, the population of Scotland was 5.12 million on 30 June 1993. This compares with 5.15 million in 1983 and 5.23 million in 1973.
Column 333down when there is a Labour Government ? Why does he think that people leave home in Scotland when there is a Labour Government, and are they not wise to do so ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The figures are revealing. In the period 1973-83, Scotland suffered net migration losses averaging more than 14,000 per year. For much of that period, Labour was in power, as my hon. Friend suggests. In the period 1983-93, the average net loss fell to below 7,000 but, most importantly, the population increased by 27,000 in the five years up to 1993. People come to Scotland and they like living there because of the excellence of the environment, the friendliness of the people and the magnificence of the heritage.
Mr. Welsh : Does the Minister not realise that the fall in the population of Scotland is proportionately the worst in the whole of western Europe ? Given Scotland's immense resources and the abilities of her people, is that not also a damning indictment of this Parliament's misrule of Scotland ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : No. The latest figures show clearly that the number has risen in the past five years, so the prophesies of doom and gloom from the jaded Jeremiahs on the Opposition Benches are unfounded. And more people will want to come and live in Scotland in the future.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : As the increase in world population is its greatest threat, will my hon. Friend make it a Government priority to address all international organisations to make them aware of the frightfulness that will result from the multiplying exponential curve of world population ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I think that that is a matter for my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for Overseas Development ; I will draw my hon. and learned Friend's concern about birth control to her attention.
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