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Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon) : Does my right hon. Friend accept that his own abhorrence of discrimination is widely recognised and appreciated and that it is welcome that the Government are undertaking consultation ? But will he further accept that the extent of the consultation needs to be increased and that it must be conducted, so to speak, without prejudice ?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government owe it to all of us who are concerned about this immensely important issue to make a balanced and realistic analysis of the benefits as well as the costs to the economy, and that it will not do to assert again in the consultation document that the cost of anti-discrimination legislation is £17 billion ? We appear to have a dialogue of the deaf in this regard--not with my right hon. Friend, but with the economic Departments.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that the consultation needs to cover all the relevant fields and that it is for the Government to lead in the introduction of legislation to establish civil rights for disabled people on a comprehensive basis as a decent society requires, while safeguarding the reasonable interests of employers and service providers ?
Mr. Scott : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening remarks and I appreciate his concern. I sought to set out in the statement what we have identified as the key issues. However, it will be open to those who read the consultative document to respond on a range of matters affecting the lives of disabled people. The document contains some assessment of the costs that flow from action in these spheres and, if we move in due course to relevant legislation, compliance cost assessments will be introduced.
I understand the point that my hon. Friend has raised more than once about the need to balance costs with the benefits that might flow to society.
Column 1301Manifestly, it is more difficult to quantify those benefits in financial terms than to quantify the costs, but undoubtedly there are benefits from greater employment of disabled people and from putting greater purchasing power into the hands of disabled people. That purchasing power can then flow out. We ought to recognise those : to quantify them is a much more difficult task.
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe) : Is not the Minister still up the river without a paddle ? Does he recall my hour-long meeting with the Prime Minister, when it was made clear that the Government could not accept any Bill on this subject with cost implications ? Is that still his policy ?
Is he aware that the promoters of the civil rights Bill have consulted very widely already ? Indeed, is he aware that, ever since I first published the Bill in 1991, the response has been strongly positive ? Is he also aware that it would be a further and gross betrayal of Britain's 6.5 million disabled people to abandon a Bill which they say is so crucially important to them, and which has a parliamentary majority ? Will there be a debate in this House on the document on an amendable motion ?
The manifest flaw in the approach taken by the Bill which we recently discussed is that the costs that were inherent in it were unquantifiable and unpredictable. It is important when the Government come to legislate that they have a clear view not only about the costs that they intend to accept themselves but about those that they intend to impose on business and other providers in our society. That was not taken into account by the Opposition in their approach to the issue. I believe that to create a concept of some over-arching right for disabled people leads one all to easily into the dangers that we have observed in other such legislation.
Mr. Scott : If the hon. Gentleman will let me complete the sentence- -yes, precisely that. I find few people in my constituency who do not react with astonishment and dismay to the prospect of pregnant ex-service women receiving grants and compensation vastly in excess of those serving members of the armed forces who have been injured in the course of their duties.
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East) : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on an excellent statement, which is welcomed on the Conservative Benches as a positive way forward for providing additional opportunities for Britain's disabled people. I particularly welcome his proposals for the Government's own lead. The Government are a big player as an employer. I urge my right hon. Friend to produce the action checklist and act on it as soon as possible.
Column 1302respected. As I said in my statement, if we are to encourage others to take action in this important area, the Government must set a lead and an example.
Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale) : Is the Minister aware that, although his statement is all very well and good, it does not go far enough ? Disabled people want to have their civil rights entrenched in law. They want to be treated like ordinary human beings, because that is what they are.
Why are there no details about transport in the statement ? The Minister says that he wants to get more disabled people into employment. Does he not realise that without accessible transport, they cannot get to that employment ? He mentioned action in the document. Is he now saying that education and persuasion have not worked ?
Mr. Scott : No--I do not agree with the hon. Lady's last point. Increasingly, in terms not only of physical provision but of attitudes towards disabled people, we have made a great deal of progress. However, I recognise that I would not be making this statement today if I did not recognise that we needed to do better and go further in the future.
In a way, I believe that transport has been a good example of how significant progress has been made in recent years without the need for some over-arching legislation. On the railways, all new rolling stock is now accessible for disabled people. We already have in London and in other parts of the country pilot projects for properly accessible buses.
All new taxis in London have to be accessible to wheelchairs, and 80 other local authorities around the country are following the same rules that were started in London. Anyone who looks at what has happened in terms of accessible transport in Britain over the 10 years should recognise the substantial progress that has been made.
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath) : Is it not a parliamentary fact that private Members' Bills are frail craft, ill suited for highly controversial and expensive legislation ? I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on presenting a document that talks in terms of what is practical and affordable. I congratulate him on getting money out of the Treasury for that purpose at a difficult time.
Mr. Scott : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has also contributed a great deal on disability matters. [Interruption.] We shall have to see. This is a consultation document. I know that it may be an unfamiliar concept to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) to publish suggestions and then listen to what people outside have to say about them. We will listen to the representations that are made to us and then make firm decisions on the way forward.
Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood) : I thank the Minister for giving me, as the most recent promoter of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, early sight of his statement and the consultation document. There have been many such Bills, and I hope that it will not be necessary for there to be many more.
Will the Minister acknowledge that the very reason why he has made the statement here this morning is that there is overwhelming support throughout the country for the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill ? If the Minister is saying that the Government cannot accept the principle of rights-based legislation, will he tell please tell the House
Column 1303why neither he nor any of his colleagues voted against the Second Reading of the Bill and why he did not oppose a single clause of the Bill in Committee ?
Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the one option for progress that has the overwhelming majority support of Members of this House is, indeed, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill ? In the spirit of consultation--I share his view that it is necessary to consult--will the Minister circulate with his documents for consultation the one proposal that a majority of Members of Parliament are on record as supporting ?
Mr. Scott : I am not being patronising. I genuinely understand the hon. Gentleman's commitment to the concept behind his Bill. I do not happen to agree, and the Government do not agree, that it is the way forward. I believe that much of the swell of support for his Bill came about because of a general wish in our society to meet the needs of disabled people. I believe that, when people understand what we propose in a practical and affordable manner, they will support us in the work that we are doing, and look forward to the action that will flow from the process.
Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst) : I commend my right hon. Friend for both the tone and the content of his statement, and for the positive steps that he has taken in issuing the consultation document. It is far more in character than his attitude to the private Member's Bill, which some of us found rather disappointing, and which seemed to alternate between ambivalence and a negative approach. Will he assure me that, during the consultation process, full account will be taken of the needs and problems of those who suffer what has been described as the invisible disability-- the deaf and hard of hearing ?
Mr. Scott : It will certainly be our intention to take account of those needs as we go forward. I hope that the House as a whole, rather than harking back to the approach of the Bill so recently discussed, will look forward in a constructive way to the future. Anyone who has held my job knows that the largest group of disabled people in our society is the deaf and hard of hearing. We will certainly not neglect their needs.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : In his reference to the financial aspects and how disabled people could have access to finance, the Minister referred to the "main forms" of disability. Does that mean that he is talking about the categorisation of disability ? Disability comes in many forms, and each is distressing, and we certainly would not like to see any categorisation. As to monitoring discrimination, the Minister indicated that a much closer watch will be kept on that. Who will be appointed to do the monitoring and to whom will they be accountable ? Finally, what budget limit has been placed on the exercise by the Treasury ?
Mr. Scott : It would clearly be wrong to go into the consultation process with some predetermined financial limit on what action might follow, and no such thing has been done. We will be going out genuinely to consult on the proposals in the document, and then looking to see what action can be taken. We do not enter this with
Column 1304predetermined attitudes, and we look forward to receiving and involving all the organisations of and for disabled people, as well as hon. Members. Of course, we are not forgetting that there are many other people whose businesses and other activities will be affected by any legislation that we pass in this sensitive area.
Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that his statement successfully balances the special needs of disabled people with the reasonable ability of a Government to pay, unlike the past rhetoric of Opposition Members ?
Mr. Scott : I am sure that that is right ; it is the correct approach for us to take in this area. Having said that, I am convinced--I am sure that all those who have held my post are convinced--that there is still discrimination against disabled people. Of course, this involves some expenditure, but it also involves changing many people's attitudes towards disabled people and recognising the immense untapped potential there still is for disabled people to contribute in a whole variety of ways to our society.
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting) : The credibility among disabled people of the consultation that the Minister wants will depend on what happens after that consultation. The Minister referred to the three-month period. Can he tell the House a little more about what will happen ? Will there be a Bill, or will there be a debate initiated by the Government, which would give hon. Members a proper opportunity to discuss all the points raised in the consultation ? If that is the case, can he assure the House that we will not be treated as we were, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) was, over the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, when we did not have a proper allocation of time ? May we have an assurance that, after the consultation, something constructive will happen and there will be adequate time for the House to discuss that ?
Mr. Scott : I would not have produced a document, as I have today, unless I was looking forward to positive action following the consultation process. I very much hope that, during the three-month period, we will get a good and positive response to the ideas in the document. Legislation is referred to in the document. We will have to see how to carry that work forward when we return.
Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the difficulty in this saga is not a question of principle but the practical application to help the disabled, in which he has such a singularly distinguished record ? Is there not a stark contrast between the practical help offered by the Government in the instant help given to those on the disability living allowance introduced by this Government, compared to the Labour Government's mobility allowance introduced in 1976, which was phased in over a long period ? Does that not demonstrate the differences between posturing and practical application ?
Mr. Scott : Of course, Labour Governments suffer when they seek to introduce measures in this area--and, indeed, in a whole range of other areas--from their total and proven inability to run a successful economy. The controls of the International Monetary Fund always play a significant part in their activities.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Is not the reality that the Government have been dragged kicking, screaming and protesting into introducing the consultation document ? May I take the Minister back to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), about what might happen in terms of legislation ? May we have an assurance that, in so far as the consultation period ends in three months' time, at the end of October, we will have legislation before July next year ? I give the Minister notice that Labour will seek substantially to amend that legislation if it does not meet our objectives.
Mr. Scott : The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I am not in a position to give that assurance, but I can tell him that we are approaching the consultative exercise, on which we are now embarking, in a positive way, and looking forward to a positive outcome as a result.
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton) : Is not the only pathetic thing about the statement this morning the ridiculous rant of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), and the fact that so many Labour Members have singularly failed to welcome what is an important step forward for the disabled ?
Is it not a fact that this Government have achieved more for the disabled than the Labour party could ever have dreamt of 15 years ago ? Is it not both presumptuous and impertinent for Labour Members to arrogate to themselves the monopoly of caring for the disabled, and the belief that they have the only practical and sensible system for achieving the sort of end for the disabled that all of us in the House want ?
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) : If, as the Minister said, the costs of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill are unquantifiable, how have the figures which I have heard, which range from £15 billion to £18 billion, been arrived at, and why was there no detailed definition of such costs in the Bill ? Further, with whom will the Minister consult ? All we have heard from Tory Members is an attitude to the disabled which suggests that they are constantly looking for patronising help. It is not help the disabled want ; it is civil rights.
Mr. Scott : The document is being distributed across the whole range of those who are interested in this matter. Of course, it involves the organisations of and for disabled people, as well as hon. Members. It will also be of particular interest to those on whom any costs may fall, either in the public or the private sector. I look forward to receiving a whole range of views about the way forward, but the Government certainly intend to approach the matter in a constructive and forward-looking manner.
Dr. Ian Twinn (Edmonton) : I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement today and for the opportunity it gives the country as a whole for constructive consultation on this matter. Is he aware that the 60 per cent. increase in funding for the London dial-a-ride has been warmly welcomed in London since the demise of the Greater London council ? Is that not a good example of how the Government have taken positive and constructive action
Column 1306throughout their time in office to help disabled people and not relied on adding burdens on industry which may in fact harm the interests of disabled people ?
Mr. Scott : The whole point of the consultation document is to be able to balance a whole range of factors--some leaning one way, some another way. I certainly reinforce my admiration for the progress that we have made in terms of dial-a-ride. But in a whole range of other areas, surely those who have open rather than closed minds recognise the tremendous progress that has been made over the past 15 years.
Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield) : Does the Minister recall that, when the National Health Service and Community Care Bill was discussed in the House, assurances were given by the right hon. Member for Surrey, South -West (Mrs. Bottomley), who is now the Secretary of State for Health, that the advocacy provisions in the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 were overtaken by the provisions in the 1990 Act ? Obviously, that is now nonsense to all disabled people in the country.
The Minister made no mention whatever of advocacy provisions this morning. What steps will the Government take within the review to ensure that proper advocacy provisions for disabled persons are introduced in Britain ?
Mr. Scott : Manifestly, those matters are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and, undoubtedly, the hon. Gentleman will take an opportunity to raise that matter with her. We certainly do not want closely to define the consultative process on the document. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that he has points that are relevant to it, he is welcome to put them forward.
Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) : My right hon. Friend talked about financial services and suggested that a code of voluntary practice is appropriate. Given the change in those financial services, that is probably better than primary legislation. In his discussions with the industry, and bearing in mind the fact that one of our larger institutions recently had to withdraw some of its employees from work because it got the guidelines wrong, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the guidelines, when they are issued, receive wide publicity and are aimed at customers of those financial institutions ?
In addition, will my right hon. Friend stress to the industry the fact that, should it decide to place additional sums on a client's costs because he or she is disabled, it will have to be demonstrably proven that that extra cost relates to the disability and that there is a strong reason why such a cost should not be absorbed generally within the services ?
Mr. Scott : I am sure that my hon. Friend's latter point will be taken seriously by those who take part in the consultation--the organisations that represent banking, insurance and building societies.
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : The document contains few international comparisons, which does not surprise me. In 1981, I was the rapporteur in the European Parliament for the International Year of the Disabled, which involved making comparisons between European countries on the situation of disabled people. At that time, the United Kingdom was very near the bottom of the pile
Column 1307on rights for disabled people, and it is still at the bottom of the pile. This document is the mark of a weak Minister, who has failed to make his case with the Treasury.
On the quota system, it has been suggested that the system ought to be voluntary. In other European countries, a financial levy is imposed on employers who do not meet the quota system. The Minister should consider that carefully, as its strength has already been established. The Department of Employment is one of the few Government Departments to have reached its 3 per cent. quota. Is he suggesting that, if there is a voluntary scheme, Departments will be able to throw the quota system out of the window ?
Mr. Scott : I described earlier the new actions being taken throughout the civil service to encourage the employment and retention of disabled people. We will be approaching that matter very positively throughout Government.
The hon. Lady's recollection of the pattern of provision in other European countries may or may not be correct. I have visited a number of them since I was given my present responsibilities. In this country, we have nothing to be ashamed of in our provision for disabled people. She mentioned the concept of imposing a levy on employers if they fail to reach their quota, as happens in one or two European countries. Many employers in those countries prefer to pay the levy rather than employ a disabled person.
Mrs. Angela Knight (Erewash) : As part of his consultation, will my right hon. Friend explore better ways to promote best practice and effective practical help, such as the excellent decision by Trent Buses, which operates in my constituency, to replace its existing bus fleet with so-called "kneeling buses", to the great benefit of disabled people and the elderly ?
Mr. Scott : I very much agree. Opposition Members often deride good practice as an ineffective approach. Of course I recognise that law has to play a part in our approach to meeting disabled people's needs, but I am sure that good practice, and a deeper understanding of the contribution that disabled people can make and the extent to which we can voluntarily overcome obstacles to their doing so--in a way that encourages good practice--also have an important part to play. Several hon. Members rose
Madam Speaker : Order. I am now going to bring questions on the statement to a close. Hon. Members will understand that we shall be returning to the subject of disability. Today is the last day for private Members' Bills and I cannot deny those Members with Bills on the Order Paper the opportunity to reach their Bills.
Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered ; reported, without amendment.
Order for Third Reading read. -- [Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]
This is an important measure, which has received all-party support in this House and in the other place. In the Standing Committee, I welcomed the support given by the hon. Members for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), and I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) here on behalf of the Scottish National party.
The Bill would introduce changes to fisheries legislation to allow my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to control all fishing activities in inshore waters, where it seems to him that such control is necessary to preserve stocks, or prevent disputes between fishermen using different and incompatible types of fishing gear.
Those powers are already available to my right hon. Friend where fishing is conducted from fishing vessels. The recent growth in land-based dredging operations, however, has allowed a coach and horses to be driven through the control measures that Parliament put in place in the Inshore Fishing Act 1984. That has meant that the full weight of stock conservation has fallen on one group of fishermen who are prosecuting the stock in question. There is broad agreement in Scotland that that is inequitable, and I believe that the House will share that view.
It is clear that the law should be changed to ensure that all who profit from an activity also contribute to the long-term survival of the resources that they are using. Only by that means can real sustainability be assured. Developments in other parts of the fishing industry have shown that sustainability can be difficult enough to achieve when all concerned are contributing to sensible conservation measures. It is clear that, without that solution, no conservation measures will work. If there is no conservation, there will be no long-term industry.
The problems of land dredging arise in many parts of Scotland, but the activity has proved most worrying on the Solway firth. That is partly because of the vast sandbanks that are exposed at low tide. They often stretch as far as the eye can see--about three or four miles. The sandbanks are ideal for populations of cockles and, in recent years, a fishery has developed to extract them.
In the beginning, a small number of local vessels adapted their fishing equipment to take cockles, but, as increasing numbers of tractors also joined in the fishery, it became evident that the cockle stocks were diminishing. That reduction was brought about and aggravated by the situation across the sea in Holland, where the Dutch Waddensee cockle fishery closed in 1992. Some of the Dutch fishermen decided to come to Scotland to prosecute the stocks there. The hydraulic suction dredgers used are tractor-drawn. That is a highly efficient method of harvesting cockles, but unfortunately the dredgers sort, and almost entirely remove, cockles of a certain age and size, which significantly reduces the biomass of stocks within a site.
Column 1309The survival of the remaining cockles is good only if they are left undisturbed. Unfortunately, with that method of extraction, they are not.
Dredging has an impact not only on cockles, but on the other flora and fauna found in the sea bed. The magnitude of that impact will depend on the frequency of dredging, on the depth at which it occurs and on whether the fauna is able to move away from the site of disturbance. The damage is significant environmentally and has an impact on the life of the sea bed.
The stock reduction may in part have resulted from entirely natural fluctuations in stock levels. I understand that cockle stocks are especially vulnerable to large fluctuations in their numbers. I do not intend to go into details of the reproductive cycle of a cockle
Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne) : I do not want to encourage my hon. Friend to go into the sex life of a mollusc--exciting or dull though that may be. The obverse, however, is that, when sensible conservation measures are taken, the refreshment of stocks can be very rapid for precisely the same reason.
Mr. Kynoch : My hon. Friend raises a valid point, but he will recognise that the reductions that can occur naturally and through the aggravated process of dredging mean that it is necessary to have conservation measures, and that is what the Bill is about. I was talking about natural fluctuations, which are a part of the natural biology of the cockle. It is clearly a factor within which fishermen have to work and, as my hon. Friend said, they must take cognisance of it. It is not impossible that some of the falling stock levels were due to natural and environmental reasons, entirely unrelated to either the land-based or vessel-based dredging activities. However, surveys of the cockle beds showed beyond doubt that the population had shrunk considerably.
Because of that, my hon. Friend the Minister had to judge whether the existing levels of fishing could safely continue, given the changing size of the cockle stock. A letter put out by the Scottish Office on 10 June 1993 referred to the stocks situation in Solway : "Updated scientific assessment of cockle stocks in the Solway have just become available. These indicate that the biomass has improved slightly from its low in 1991 . . . though stocks remain well below the 197m per square km detected in 1990. However much of the latest increase stems from good spat settlement in 1992 and these very young cockles form a very high proportion of the total stock biomass. Stock assessments of older cockles indicate a steady and continuing decline . . . After two poor years, the good spat settlement in 1992 is encouraging. However, the exploitable stock biomass remains at very low levels and is, in fact, below the level at which the fishery was closed last year."
As result of the statistics, the Minister extended the fishery's closure beyond July 1993 and has said that it will remain closed until August 1994. I understand that he has renewed that closure, because the situation is still poor. Of course, that applies only to vessels which fish from the sea.
It was at the point when my hon. Friend acted that local vessel owners pressed him and the Scottish Office to control the activities of all cockle fishermen, to make sure that sufficient population levels remain for stocks to regenerate themselves. They fully realised that they would have to be affected by any controls as well and their motivation was not to put an end to land-based dredging while they continued regardless. They accepted that, in the
Column 1310absence of powers to control tractor dredgers, it would be themselves alone who would have to stop fishing, at least in the short term.
I applaud the fishermen for the responsible attitude that they have shown to stock conservation and I also sympathise with them because they have had to suffer one-sided controls for so long. I know that they are eagerly awaiting the completion of the Bill and that they are equally eager for the powers to be used as soon as possible, to bring all fishing activities under the existing controls. I hope that my hon. Friend will say something about how he envisages the powers being used and how quickly and effectively they can be brought in. Concerns have also been raised by other interest groups. Cockles are an important foodstuff for many coastal bird populations. The south-west of Scotland is particularly rich in bird wintering and nesting areas. It is not the only part of Scotland which is affected by the measure and which has cockle areas.
I received information from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds-- it has been extremely helpful in the preparation of the details of the Bill and in providing background information to myself and colleagues who have approached it--that cockling areas that are of international importance for wild birds include not only the Solway but Dornoch firth, Cromarty firth and Otterswick in Orkney. The areas are spread throughout Scotland and while the problem at present exists only in the Solway firth, it is likely that it could be aggravated, and could spread to other parts of Scotland. The Press and Journal of 28 April 1992 states :
"Pirates plunder Tain shellfish".
Tractor dredgers must have already got up to that part of Scotland.
The activities of tractor dredgers and, to some extent, other fishing activities, obviously upset the fragile balance which exists within the eco -system. In particular, dredging activities conducted at low tide can disturb roosting birds during the winter months, as well as the foreshore when it is exposed or covered with shallower water than would be the case with vessel dredgers. That means that overturned sand that has been left to dry out could have a serious impact on many other marine organisms that live in the same stratum of the foreshore as cockles.
If there are not enough cockles for birds to eat, they can starve to death. In the Dutch situation to which I have referred, there was a significant death rate among the eider ducks that fed in that area. Undersized cockles that are returned to the sea as part of the process of suction dredging are less likely to survive if they are returned to parts of the beach that have dried out.
On the other hand, vessel dredgers return small shellfish to the sea bed while they are still covered in water and that allows them to burrow easily back into the sand. Another clear impact on local bird populations--this applies equally to vessel dredgers and tractors--is caused by the fact that the number of cockles remaining for local bird populations is reduced. It must be obvious that that may have an impact on breeding success and can in extreme cases lead to the short-term survival of adult birds.
The House knows that much of rural Scotland has outstanding beauty. [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] I am pleased to hear my hon. Friends from south of the border
Column 1311agreeing with that ; may many more of them come to see the beauties of Scotland. In particular, they may like to see the beauties of the Solway firth.
The countryside is a valuable natural resource in its own right, but it is also of inestimable value in attracting tourists to areas that otherwise would have limited means of income generation. Tourists come for a wide variety of reasons, but one is to see the wild animals and birds that thrive in those areas. Any potential impact on birds would therefore be worrying in its own right, but could also have an impact on the long-term income generated from the tourism industry.
The Annandale Herald of Thursday 3 December says :
"Scottish Office environment minister, Sir Hector Monro, announced international conservation designations for the Upper Solway Flats and Marshes this week. The site, which straddles the Scottish/English border, has been made a Special Protection Area for Birds and a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar convention." People will come to visit the Solway firth not just to see the bird life but to experience the peace and quiet which is so natural there. I know that the RSPB has circulated hon. Members with photographs of what the beach at the Solway firth looks like with the monstrosities of tractors and dredgers. There is a man in the photograph and it clearly shows that the suction dredger is more than double the size of that man. These objects go charging up and down the beach, ripping it to pieces, and they have an effect on the peace and quiet of the area.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : The measures that the hon. Gentleman is proposing are generally thought to be constructive. Is it not all the more a pity that, the last time they came before the House, they were caught up in the disreputable attempts by his hon. Friends to delay and stop discussion of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill ? Is not the point that we should take from this that constructive measures such as these should not become a part of the tactics used in this place to stop other hon. Members' constructive measures ?