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Column 885through urban aid this year to areas of particular deprivation. Those areas are considered with great care whenever applications come in.
Mr. McAllion: More than £4,000 million has been spent on the Scottish national health service, most of it by the Secretary of State's appointees on health boards and NHS trusts. Does the Minister accept that while the establishment of an independent committee to advise on those appointments is a welcome step in the right direction, it nevertheless leaves a yawning democratic deficit at the heart of spending on the NHS in Scotland? Quangos are not made more accountable or more democratic simply by setting up a super-quango to watch over them. Does the Minister accept that only the establishment of a Scottish Parliament, elected by the Scottish people, will close that democratic deficit and that it is not for the Secretary of State for Scotland, but for the Scottish people--and only the Scottish people--to decide how their money is spent on their health service?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment as Opposition spokesman. On the previous major housing Bill, we were the only Scots Members of Parliament sitting in on proceedings so, for me, he is continuing an old role which he occupied in the past. In Tayside, some £245 million is being spent. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, so far as we are concerned, appointments are made on merit. That is why we appointed two persons who claim no affiliation with the Tory party--Campbell Christie and Lord Ewing, who is well known to the hon. Gentleman and who was a Scottish Office Minister a few years ago under the Labour Government. Persons are and will be appointed on merit.
11. Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with Scottish Enterprise to discuss defence diversification in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Stewart: On my right hon. Friend's behalf, on 17 October I met Fife interests, including the chairman and chief executive of Fife Enterprise, together with representatives of Fife regional council and Dunfermline district council, to discuss the implications of defence and other industrial changes for the region. Fife Enterprise is now to put forward proposals to the Scottish Office for a task force to tackle these issues and it has been agreed that the Scottish Office will be represented on the task force.
Mr. Salmond: Has the Minister responsible for industry had time to read Fife regional council's submission to the Rosyth consultation process, which indicates that the Government have underestimated by 500 the job losses as a result of the proposals and that the total impact of job losses in the defence industry since 1991 in Fife alone will be no fewer than 7,000? Does the Minister accept those figures? Does he accept that job losses on that scale strengthen the argument for taking the savings in the defence budget directly into the industry and training budget in Scotland to evolve a proper defence diversification strategy as opposed to just losing the money in the Treasury morass?
Mr. Stewart: I have read the documents to which the hon. Gentleman refers. The major difference is that the
Column 886Fife document refers to direct military personnel, who I do not think can reasonably be regarded as full-time residents of Fife although there is an indirect consequence to the Fife economy of a rundown involving personnel moving elsewhere.
In relation to the hon. Gentleman's general point, the consequences of "Front Line First" for Scotland are much less than they are elsewhere in Britain. For example, there will be a reduction of 8.2 per cent. in those employed in Scotland compared with a reduction of 13.2 per cent. in the south-east of England and 20.7 per cent. in the south-west. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will include those figures in his speeches. I can also confirm that Scottish Enterprise has a defence initiative to ensure that the consequences of the defence rundown are widely studied; a co-ordinated strategy, involving £25 million over three years, is in place and I believe that it will be highly effective.
Mr. Kynoch: In discussions with Scottish Enterprise, has my hon. Friend had any feedback from Scottish industry about the implications for Scottish industry of a Scottish Parliament as proposed by the Labour party? Is my hon. Friend aware that there is extreme concern in my part of Scotland about the fact that we shall become the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom which will be detrimental to existing industry and inward investment?
Mr. Stewart: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I understand from the press that the Labour party is likely to finance its plans by an increased tax on business in Scotland-- [Interruption.] If that is not the intention, let us have it confirmed in writing. Let us have confirmed in writing the 20 answers to the 20 questions from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). The trouble with the Labour party is that it is apparently committed to a body on which no Labour Members are prepared to serve and-- [Interruption.] Well, there are three. How many more? It appears that there are four or five. Is that all? There are only five. What about the rest of them? Labour Members will not answer any detailed questions on how a Scottish Parliament would work or how it would be financed.
Mr. Connarty: When the Minister meets Scottish Enterprise, will he try to get down to some facts about the level of employment in Scotland? In research that I carried out over the summer, Government statistics reveal that there are 55,000 fewer people working in the Scottish work force in 1994 than there were in 1992 at the last peak of employment. Will the Minister discuss with Scottish Enterprise the fantasy of what happens to the young people on Government-related work training schemes? On average, there were 48,000 young people on such schemes last year. When the Department of Employment carried out its survey, after six months only 10 per cent. of survey forms were returned. That means that 43,000 young people have been lost; we do not know what has happened to them.
Will the Minister discuss with Scottish Enterprise, which I believe has now taken on the responsibility, how we can get round the table and design a survey which will follow every young person and discover whether that
Column 887person obtains employment as we suspect that the vast majority do not get employment after wasting time on Government training schemes?
Mr. Stewart: The hon. Gentleman has not sent me details of his researches over the summer, but, broadly, there are 155,000 more people in the work force than there were 10 years ago. On the hon. Gentleman's second point, the proportion of those on youth training schemes going on to full- time employment is steadily rising.
Mr. Menzies Campbell: Do not the examples of Fife and Rosyth demonstrate how unrealistic it is to rely on the market to achieve defence diversification, not least because the market has only one customer, the Ministry of Defence? Is it not time for a properly co-ordinated Government strategy to manage the industrial change which has necessarily come about as a result of the ending of the cold war?
Mr. Stewart: The hon. and learned Member was not listening to what I said-- [Interruption.] Hon. Members would benefit from listening to my responses. I said very clearly that we are not relying in any sense on the market alone and that we have a clear and co-ordinated defence initiative run by Scottish Enterprise to assist in a variety of ways, through the local enterprise company network, with companies in Scotland to meet their needs, and to have a more diversified customer base.
12. Mr. Macdonald: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on levels of unemployment in the west highlands and islands.
Mr. Stewart: The latest unemployment statistics indicate that the downward trend in unemployment in the highlands and islands enterprise area is continuing and has indeed fallen in seven of the past 12 months. In the western isles, the fall in unemployment over the past year exceeds the Scottish average.
Mr. Macdonald: The Minister will know that tackling unemployment in the highlands and islands requires good transport links, particularly for island constituencies and islands such as Barra in my constituency. Many islanders work on the mainland and in the offshore oil industry. Will the Minister confirm that the Government are continuing to monitor the Loganair service between Barra and Glasgow? That service is continuing to cause concern. Does the Minister agree that the bottom line is that that service must be at least as reliable or as good as the previous service?
Mr. Stewart: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of that service. Indeed, he has made strong
representations to the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), on behalf of the local community about the reliability of the
Glasgow-Tiree-Barra service. I confirm that my hon. Friend and his civil servants are in close touch with the company as a matter of urgency. I am aware that Loganair is working hard on measures to improve reliability. As for the bottom line, I give the hon. Gentleman the absolute assurance that the Government agree fully with him.
Mr. Charles Kennedy: Will the Minister confirm the crucial contribution that the oil-related fabrication
Column 888industry makes to employment prospects throughout the west highlands and islands? In that context, will he redouble Scottish Office efforts and Department of Trade and Industry pressure on the European Commission, following this week's merger of Highlands Fabricators at Nigg with McDermotts at Ardersier, to ensure that we have a level playing field for fabrication contracts within the single European market? Many of us still believe that the unfair competitive practices in other EU member states are not being adequately policed by the Commission.
Mr. Stewart: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman, first, on the importance of the industry to the part of the country that he represents and, secondly, on the crucial importance of maintaining pressure on the Commission to ensure the level playing field to which he refers.
13. Mr. Eric Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has ordered a survey of the effects on youth recruitment of the Government's proposed cuts in the civil service.
Mr. Lang: The Government expect civil service numbers to decline in Scotland, as elsewhere. How this might affect youth recruitment will depend on the particular circumstances of individual Departments.
Mr. Clarke: Is the Secretary of State aware that there have been cuts in the finance and insurance industries in Edinburgh and that my constituency, which is one of the catchment areas for that recruitment area, is suffering? It is more difficult now for young people to get started in a career, and many of them are being employed on a temporary basis by the civil service throughout Scotland, not only in the Edinburgh area. The job creation situation under the Government is a laughing stock. They are creating a generation gap in the civil service and unemployment.
Mr. Lang: On the question of generation gaps in the civil service, the hon. Gentleman overlooks the fact that recruitment later in life is opening up in the civil service, and that there are opportunities for entry other than at the outset of one's career. As for the financial sector, that is one sector of the economy which has expanded dramatically in the past decade or so. There are recent examples of several hundred jobs from insurance companies being brought to Scotland which were previously carried out in the south-east of England. Indeed, at present, there are more people in employment in the service sector in Scotland than ever before.
Mrs. Liddell: Does the Minister agree that it is not only in civil service recruitment that young people are being disadvantaged? In view of the promises made by the Prime Minister and other Ministers about extra assistance to Lanarkshire to aid youth employment, can the Minister explain why the budget of the Lanarkshire development agency has been cut by Scottish Enterprise and how that is meant to assist young people seeking new jobs in new industries?
Mr. Lang: I welcome the hon. Lady to Scottish Question Time if, indeed, this is her debut. The budget for Scottish Enterprise has been substantially maintained recently. The actual distribution among different
Column 889enterprise companies is a matter for Scottish Enterprise, but special resources have been brought to bear on the problems of Lanarkshire recently.
14. Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many council houses have been sold to sitting tenants in Scotland since May 1979.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: By the end of March 1994, more than 289,000 houses had been sold by public sector landlords in Scotland to sitting tenants--proof of the great success of the right to buy. Before long, I hope to take part in a ceremony to mark the sale of the 300,000th house.
Sir David Knox: What proportion of the council house stock in Scotland has been sold? If it is still less than the proportion in England, what is my hon. Friend doing to increase sales in Scotland?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The percentage of public sector stock sold since 1979 is 26.8 per cent. in England. In Scotland, it is 27.6 per cent, so we have decisively overtaken England in the sale of public sector stock to sitting tenants. As well as that, we hope some time next year to be able to say that the 300,000th house has been built since 1979. That is a substantial achievement, much of it by the private sector.
Mr. Foulkes: Is the Minister aware that despite direct representations by 18 Labour Members, the chairman and board of Scottish Homes have refused to allow councils to purchase houses from Scottish Homes? Is he also aware that Peter Mackinlay, the chief executive of Scottish Homes, told my Ayrshire colleagues and me that new town development corporation houses will be able to be sold to local councils as a result of a mistake by a senior civil servant in the Scottish Office? Can we not have the same sort of mistake for Scottish Homes and give tenants in Scottish Homes houses a real choice?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The position with regard to new town tenants is different. In particular, in the winding up of the new towns that will be taking place, there is a smaller than average proportion of local authority stock within the new towns. A further important factor is the need for decisions to be taken before wind-up. That is not the case for Scottish Homes. If special circumstances exist, Scottish Homes can take them into account, but it seems that the hon. Gentleman has
Column 890not mentioned any special circumstances in this particular matter. I do not think that the civil servants have made any mistake at all.
15. Mr. McKelvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his response to the first report from the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs on drug abuse, HC 62.
Mr. Lang: The Select Committee's report was welcomed by the Government as a helpful contribution to the debate on the drug misuse problem in Scotland. The Scottish drugs task force, led by my noble and learned Friend the Minister of State, has now produced its comprehensive report containing more than 60 recommendations for action in responding to the drug misuse problem. Implementation of the report by the Government will be given a high priority.
Mr. McKelvey: As the task force report outlined a much-needed strategy particularly for harm reduction with regard to drugs, why on earth did the Secretary of State allow the Home Office to delay the implementation and publication of that report by three months? People who are desperately ill need assistance. Not only will their illness continue, but some of them may die while the delay continues.
Mr. Lang: I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman that there has been no delay. The report was published as soon as it was ready. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that much of what the Select Committee recommended has found echoes in the task force strategy report, which has now been published. It is important that hon. Members throughout the House should work together to implement the many recommendations in the report, which have been well received in Scotland and which we must all be determined will help us to fight the drugs misuse problem.
Mr. Tony Lloyd, supported by Mr. Bernie Grant, Mr. Harry Barnes and Mrs. Jane Kennedy, presented a Bill to make provision with respect to youth services in the community and participation by youth in community development; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 166.]
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