Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The current arrangements do not preclude a local authority from presenting proposals to acquire Scottish Homes stock. In special circumstances, that option can be put forward, as it was in the case of Berwickshire. Those special circumstances would include, first, the number of properties involved ; secondly, their location ; and, thirdly, the percentage of houses already held by the local authority. In Kilmarnock and Loudoun, some 44 per cent. of houses are in the public sector, which is substantially higher than the national average. It is our aim to have more choice and diversity in housing stock.
9. Ms Rachel Squire : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the Konver initiative ; and what funding he proposes to make available to local authorities to progress economic development.
Mr. Stewart : Scotland received more than £1.7 million from the first Konver initiative, which ran as a one-year programme in 1993. The European Commission is in the process of issuing guidelines for the next round of Community initiatives, including a second Konver programme.
Ms Squire : Does the Minister agree that the Government should introduce a national strategy for defence diversification if any progress is to be made in economic development in areas that depend heavily on defence-related activities, such as Fife, which has the highest unemployment rate in Scotland and where we have lost 4,000 jobs at Rosyth in the past three years ? Does he further agree that no EC initiative could replace the 8,000 jobs that depend on Rosyth's future ? Will he say clearly today that he supports Rosyth and will he link his future to that of the naval base and to those 8,000 jobs ?
Mr. Stewart : On the second question, the hon. Lady knows that no decision has been made on the future of the naval base, as well as the other establishments being reviewed under "Front Line First". She will know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is to make a statement before the House rises for the summer recess.
As for the hon. Lady's main question on a defence initiative, we do have a Scottish defence initiative which has been implemented in particular by two local enterprise companies--Fife Enterprise and the Glasgow Development Agency. They have developed several programmes to reduce the impact of defence reductions, aimed mainly at diversification and support for redundant workers. For example, under the new product development programme they have assisted more than 850 people from more than 50 companies. I assure the hon. Lady--indeed, she may know this from her own contacts--that Fife Enterprise has close relationships with important key companies in the sector and is developing a range of specific initiatives.
Mr. Fabricant : My hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the Locate in Scotland programme, which has attracted firms such as Hoover, Motorola and Mitsubishi. But does he agree that the distance between Scotland and the centre of gravity of Europe puts it at a great disadvantage ? Is it not therefore even more amazing that freight transport from Scotland to the rest of Europe is being disrupted today by the rail strike-- [Interruption.] --and is it not even more surprising that the Opposition Front Bench
Mr. Stewart rose --
Mr. Stewart : Yes, I remember it. My hon. Friend is right to stress the importance of transport links between Scotland and Europe. That is why the Eurofreight terminal in Mossend is important, as is the open skies policy pursued by the Government. My hon. Friend is also right to say that Scotland is an extremely attractive location for multinational companies, which make their decisions wholly objectively. The recent figures from Locate in Scotland amply prove that.
Dr. Reid : In keeping with the spirit of the times, would any of the candidates at the hustings for the post of Secretary of State for Scotland like to dissociate himself from the treacherous betrayal of Rosyth by the two previous Secretaries of State ? The present Secretary of State--the incumbent for the time being--has failed to lift
Column 311a finger for Rosyth, and the previous Secretary of State, now Secretary of State for Defence, has physically presided over the impending closure of Rosyth ? Why should anyone in Rosyth or in the rest of Scotland who is interested in jobs or in the defence of Scotland and the rest of Britain ever trust whoever succeeds the present incumbent ?
Mr. George Robertson : Is it just possible that the Secretary of State might manage to take time out from the royal pageant in Edinburgh to consider the future of Her Majesty's naval base at Rosyth, or has he completely given up the fight to save it ? May I tell the Minister, who seems to be standing in for the absent Secretary of State today, that if the Government do not listen to the defence case and the human case for-- [Hon. Members :-- "He is taking some advice."] Obviously the parliamentary private secretary is giving the Minister advice. Let us hope that it is the right advice--although if I were the Minister I would rather accept advice from somebody else. If the Government do not listen to the defence case and the human case for the Rosyth naval base, and act on it, they will be roundly condemned all over the country. If they do not fight for the base, they will betray the defence of Britain and the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on Rosyth. If they do not care about Rosyth and the people connected with it, they will be swept away--and swept away for a generation.
Mr. Stewart : Of course, the Secretary of State for Scotland is in touch with the Secretary of State for Defence on matters affecting Scotland. Naturally, there is constant communication on such matters. I must tell Opposition Members that I find it astonishing that a party that historically has favoured cutting defence expenditure year after year, with manifesto commitment after manifesto commitment, now wants very high expenditure on defence. But of course the matter is of concern. That is why, for example, I understand that yesterday my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence met a delegation from Fife accompanied by my hon. Friends the Members for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) and for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker)
Mr. Stewart : It is primarily for business to identify and provide the skills and associated training which it requires for success in today's global marketplace. The substantial funding given to Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise enables them to assist businesses and individuals to acquire skills which will benefit the economy of Scotland.
Mr. Worthington : The short answer is that the Minister knows nothing at all about skill shortages in Scotland, and he admits that in his parliamentary answers to my questions. He referred me to Scottish Enterprise. Scottish Enterprise wrote to me and said that it does not
Column 312collect information on skill shortages in Scotland. How can the Minister give assurances that all is well, when neither he nor Scottish Enterprise has a clue about skill shortages in Scotland ?
Mr. Stewart : I can tell the hon. Gentleman one figure, if he is interested. It is from the latest CBI industrial trends survey, in which the percentage of respondents quoting shortages of skilled or other labour as a constraint on investment was precisely zero.
Mr. Stewart : If the hon. Gentleman will give me a moment, I shall tell him. May I, in particular, refer the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) and other hon. Members to the clear strategy set out by Scottish Enterprise last week ?
Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman says that it does not mention skills. He obviously has not read the document. The document lays great stress on Scotland's skills and knowledge base as the greatest single source of competitive advantage. In that context, Scottish Enterprise aims to improve and develop the national training schemes which it delivers to combine development of appropriate skills with placing people in work to stimulate and help articulate demand for skills from businesses and individuals. However, of course, the bulk of training is and will continue to be carried out by companies themselves. That is the point which the hon. Gentleman appears not to appreciate.
Mr. Dickens : Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Locate in Scotland campaign has been so successful that £5 billion has either been invested or planned to be invested and that that has created jobs for or retrained 96,000 people in Scotland ? But, returning to the skill shortages, 47 per cent. of all companies from overseas who have located in Scotland conduct research and development. That is where the skills come from and it is time that Scottish Opposition Members woke up to that.
Mr. Stewart : I agree with my hon. Friend, but I fear that he is being optimistic if he thinks that Opposition Members will ever find it in themselves to say anything good about what happens in Scotland. My hon. Friend is right to point to the success of Locate in Scotland, which had a record year last year. I pay tribute to the dedicated staff of Locate in Scotland for all their work. Again and again, potential inward investors say to us that one of the great attractions of Scotland is-- [Hon. Members :-- "The golf courses."] It is not the golf courses. One of the great attractions is the skilled and dedicated work force that is available.
Mrs. Adams : If the Minister insists that the largest amount of training is done in industries in Scotland, will he take my word for it that Rolls-Royce in my constituency, which was one of the great trainers of apprentices in Scotland, has, in the past six years, trained six apprentice engineers, the last of whom finished a year ago ? There are now no new apprenticeships at Rolls-Royce in Hillington. Will the Minister produce his evidence and tell us how many industrial apprenticeships there are in Scotland ?
Column 313of the total training undertaken by British industry ? That is absurd. Employers in Britain spend more than £20 billion a year on employee training and development. The comparable figure for Scotland is about £2 billion a year. That is a measure of Scottish companies' commitment to training of all sorts.
11. Mr. Bellingham : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received from fishermen's organisations regarding the use of drift nets ; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Hector Monro : I receive frequent representations from those concerned about the drift net fishery for salmon off the coast of north- east England. The matter of drift net fisheries was discussed at the last Fisheries Council.
Mr. Bellingham : Will my hon. Friend find time today to recognise the important economic contribution of angling to the rural communities of Scotland ? Will he pay tribute to the fact that in Scotland drift net fishing for salmon has been almost entirely curtailed ? Does he agree that the Northumberland drift net fishery, which catches almost exclusively salmon heading for Scottish rivers, is an anomaly and a disgrace, and that, after proper compensation to the netsmen, it should be stopped ?
Sir Hector Monro : I agree with my hon. Friend that salmon fishing in Scotland is of enormous importance to the community in that it brings tourism and business for hotels and shops, for example. We want to see as many anglers coming to Scotland as possible. My hon. Friend is right also to say that we banned drift net fishing many years ago around the Scottish coast. The issue of the north-east drift net fishery is complicated and it is difficult to be precise when discussing it.
We have, as my hon. Friend knows, introduced a net limitation order and the number of licences for salmon nets has fallen by 12.7 per cent. in the past year. That is a step in the right direction. We must move on the basis of scientific advice, which is provided by the National Rivers Authority. I have my hon. Friend's point very much in mind, and I hope that one of these days we shall find the right solution.
Mr. Macdonald : Can the Minister justify and explain why it is right for monofilament nets to be used by English fishermen in English coastal waters but not by Scottish fishermen in Scottish coastal waters ?
Sir Hector Monro : As the hon. Gentleman knows, the use of such nets has been banned in Scotland for many years. We feel that that is the right step to take, bearing in mind the conservation of fish as well as the power of catching. I believe that we have come to the right decision. It is not always accepted by fishermen, especially those on the west coast, but throughout the rest of Scotland it is generally believed that we have made the right decision.
12. Mr. Trimble : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on developments relating to the governance of Scotland since the publication of "Scotland in the Union : A Partnership for Good".
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : We have pressed ahead vigorously to implement the various proposals in the White Paper "Scotland in the Union : A Partnership for Good", published last year. All the commitments have either been implemented or are well in hand.
Mr. Trimble : Does the Minister agree that earlier supplementary questions suggest that Labour will revert to cover-up and bluster rather than taking the opportunity to clean out the Augean stables that exist in its organisation in the Greater Glasgow area ? Does he further agree that the recent election result shows that there is an urgent need for the creation of a moderate, right-of-centre, pro-Union alternative to Labour, which the present Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties cannot provide, and that without such an alternative the outlook for Scottish politics is not encouraging ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I welcome the hon. Gentleman's sturdy support of the Union of Great Britain. The Conservative party stood on that platform before the last general election and the number of Conservative Members increased as a result. We will continue to fight as hard as we can for the Union on every conceivable occasion. The proposals in the White Paper strengthen the Union between Scotland and England. The Standing Order changes that are proposed will be introduced early next Session after being debated and we look forward to Scotland benefiting greatly from the changes. We will bear in mind the problems in relation to Greater Glasgow that the hon. Member has mentioned.
Mr. Connarty : Does the Minister accept that the whole concept of the White Paper has been made ludicrous in the eyes of the people of Scotland because of the growing number of quangos and the fact that the Secretary of State appoints all those people who are answerable only to him ? With regard to health, the quango is answerable to a health Minister who is in another place and who has not even been elected, having been rejected by the people of Scotland. How can the people of Scotland give any credibility to any movement in "Scotland in the Union : A Partnership for Good" until we get rid of the quangos and put elected people in responsible positions in Scotland ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman has the nerve to ask a question of that nature when the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland served on the Scottish tourist board, the Scottish Development Agency and on a third quango relating to the police. We have considerably reduced the number of quangos throughout Britain and that is greatly to our credit. However, where there is a need for them--for example, Scottish Homes--they will, of course, survive in the public interest.
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