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Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The health board is working on revised proposals, which we have not yet seen. The latest proposals will give future occupants much more privacy and comfort. The aim is to continue to assess demand against need. It would not be right for us to impose an artificial deadline on the board's deliberations. The hon. Gentleman's letters should have been answered, and I shall draw that to the attention of the board.
Mr. Hood: The Minister will be aware that the present trust management at Law hospital in my constituency will be in charge of the new trust hospital, New Law hospital, in Netherton. Will he comment on the announcement this week that the management has put out press releases telling people not to turn up at the casualty and emergency department? As a result of its mismanagement, it has failed to get contracts signed to man the department after 1 February, in a few days time. Is it not truly alarming that our health service is being run with a so-called market and trust philosophy, and that in less than seven days a casualty and emergency department which served 40,000 patients last year faces closure?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I have made inquiries. The proposed restrictions at the accident and emergency unit at Law hospital are the result of recruitment difficulties. There is no substance in the allegation that there are funding problems. The temporary arrangements involving locums will ensure that an adequate service is maintained. All emergencies will be dealt with. Only those patients with minor injuries and ailments are being asked to consult their general practitioner first. Efforts are being made to find a more permanent staffing solution. The intention is that Law
Column 351hospital will transfer to the new district hospital at Wishaw. Services at Stonehouse will transfer to the redeveloped Hairmyres hospital.
Mr. George Robertson: Is it not a fact that the latest and newest hospital in west central Scotland is the Health Care International in Clydebank, which survived the Secretary of State's official opening for only 110 days before going into liquidation? Is it not also a fact that 80 per cent. of the multi-million pound regional assistance given to Health Care International was provided on the basis of only a third of the jobs promised at that time? What possible defence is there for making another £4.4 million of taxpayers' money available to the financial drainpipe of HCI, other than that it will be a sweetener to those who are already to get a bargain basement deal, with a hospital without debt costing the entire country £180 million, or an expensive face saver for the Secretary of State for Scotland after the fiasco of the decade?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he is not correct in saying that it cost the country £180 million, because £30 million was committed from the public sector and £150 million from the private sector. No further offer of assistance has been made. There is no reason in principle why the balance of the existing offer should not be transferred to a new operator, subject to appropriate conditions, if the project is being taken forward as originally envisaged and the planned new jobs are being created. I must remind the hon. Gentleman of his words on 10 January, when he said:
"We are not opposed to public/private partnerships--they bring in much- needed money".
He is right on that. It was an inward investment project. If one takes all the investment projects in Scotland together, one can see that they have brought in more than 50,000 jobs, which have enormously benefited our countrymen. We very much hope that these matters will be sorted out shortly and that 350 jobs will be secured.
9. Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects work on the land register for Scotland, as defined by the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979, to be completed.
Mr. Stewart: The operation of the land register in Scotland is being progressively extended to cover all counties by 2003.
Mrs. Ewing: Given that the Minister must be aware of the criticisms contained in the 46th report of the Public Accounts Committee, which indicates quite clearly that there was a 14-year delay in completing land registration in Scotland, will he tell the House why that delay has occurred, particularly as there will be conveyancing cost benefits to many people when it is completed? Will he also tell me why no county north of Stirling has yet been subjected to land registration, given that the land issue in the highlands and islands and in the north-east of Scotland is very topical--indeed, even contentious--at times, against a background of Scottish islands being won in German game shows?
Mr. Stewart: The timetable was announced in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for
Column 352Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) in June 1992. If there is any delay, it is the hon. Lady's delay of two and a half years before complaining about it.
Our response to the report of the Public Accounts Committee will be published shortly.
Mr. Wilson: Can the Minister tell me any good reason why instead of a 14 or 20-year process to find out who owns the land in Scotland there should not be a fixed date on which every land owner, irrespective of nationality, is required to produce title deeds and thereby register his ownership of the land? Is it possible that one of the reasons why that is not done is that many of the grand old Scottish lairds, clan chiefs and all the rest of that social detritus might have great difficulty in providing title deeds?
Mr. Stewart: That is the usual load of nonsense from the hon. Gentleman. The process of extending the land register was announced two and a half years ago and it is going ahead as announced in the original programme.
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: Does my hon. Friend find it rather strange that the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) chose to raise her question, when her own party's administration in Grampian region has recently sold off large tracts of Aberdeen to an English company and is refusing to sell it to the Aberdeen tenants?
Mr. Stewart: The House will note with interest what my hon. Friend says. I have always understood the policy of the Scottish National party to be independence in Europe, which, in principle, means that Scottish land can be sold--and should be sold--to anybody in the Community, including the English.
10. Mr. Dunnachie: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to meet representatives of the Clyde port authority to discuss the dredging of the River Clyde.
Mr. Lang: Responsibility for flood prevention measures on non- agricultural land lies with regional authorities under the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961. Clyde Port Ltd. has no statutory duty to dredge the River Clyde but has a permissive power to dredge to the extent necessary for its operational needs.
Mr. Dunnachie: Will the Secretary of State cast his mind back to when his hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) piloted a Bill through the House, making the Clyde port authority a private firm and making three of its directors near-millionaires? It appears that the only thing that was dredged at that point in time was its accounts, not the River Clyde. Can the Secretary of State give me an assurance that, when he returns to the Back Benches, he will not become a director of that company?
Mr. Lang: The Bill under which the Clyde port authority was privatised was general, permissive legislation. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the fact that, under the present management, Clyde Port Ltd. has been reorganised and has grown considerably. It is now valued at £55 million and increased profits last year to £4 million.
Mr. Galbraith: Does the Secretary of State realise that my constituents are convinced that one reason for the
Column 353recent flooding is the failure to dredge the lower Kelvin and the upper Clyde? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore fund a study of the contribution that the non-dredging of the Clyde made to the flooding and, if it is shown to be a contributory factor, fund the necessary restructuring work to prevent it happening again?
Mr. Lang: I have already made it clear that the Government are willing to consider all such studies that are put to them by the relevant regional authorities, and have already undertaken to contribute to the funding of the study by the Clyde river purification board. I imagine that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the River Kelvin once it enters Glasgow, falls some 30m to reach the Clyde, so it is unlikely that the Clyde itself can be the cause of flooding in Strathkelvin.
However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman today that, following my consideration of initial estimates now received from local authorities, I propose to increase Renfrew district's housing capital allocation for next year by £2 million and Strathkelvin district's by £500,000. I also propose to approve Glasgow district's bid for an extra £200,000 in the current year. I am sure that the House will welcome those announcements.
Mr. George Robertson: Is not the Secretary of State worried that the interest in Clyde Port Ltd. is not just in its dredging activities but in the gold digging of those who were lucky enough to be on the board at the time that it was privatised? Is not he aware of the widespread disgust and outrage felt throughout the country at the displays of corporate greed? Is not that a classic example of where an investment of as little as £75,000 in public assets has led, through the Government's fruit machine economics, to pay-outs of upwards of £5 million to directors?
Mr. Lang: The hon. Gentleman seems to be unaware that the company was marketed entirely openly and that the best bid secured it. That is the way in which industries have been privatised to the great benefit of the taxpayer, of those who in the past have had to fund loss-making organisations, and of those organisations themselves who have not been able to raise capital resources because they have been dependent on an external financing limit controlled by the Government. Surely the hon. Gentleman has learnt by now that national ownership has been the death and damage of many major British industries which are now released, liberated, productive and tax generating to the Exchequer as a result of privatisation.
11. Mr. Kynoch: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met representatives of Scottish business and industry to discuss future investment plans; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang: I regularly meet representatives of Scottish business and industry to discuss various matters, including investment. Recent business surveys show increasing business confidence and positive investment intentions in manufacturing and other sectors of the Scottish economy. I welcome this further evidence of the success of the Government's economic policies.
Mr. Kynoch: My right hon. Friend has already referred to the article in The Spectator by Leo McKinstry, the former top Labour party aide. Did my right hon. Friend
Column 354read his comments regarding Labour's proposal to return business rates to the control of local authorities? He said that under those circumstances business rates would soar. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that proposal, along with the tax raising proposals of a Scottish Parliament which would inevitably bring higher taxation to Scottish business, would mean that inward investment would be driven away from Scotland--in short, that Labour's policies are bad for Scottish business, bad for the Scottish economy and bad for the Scottish people?
Mr. Lang: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. He will be aware that, as a result of the Government's policy, business rates in Scotland have fallen from 76p in the pound to 43p. Only last week I wrote to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), to which letter I still await a reply, asking him to confirm whether the policy announced for England to abolish capping and to allow local authorities to depart from the uniform business rate, will apply in Scotland. Perhaps he will take the opportunity of this Question Time to make his party's position clear.
Mr. Ingram: The Secretary of State's response to the announcement by Rolls-Royce of its intention to axe 600 highly-skilled jobs smacked of complacency and indifference. Does he agree that Scotland and Lanarkshire cannot afford to lose such jobs? Has he any plans to meet the company to seek a reversal of that decision and, if not, why not?
Mr. Lang: Of course I regret the fact that Rolls-Royce plc is to shed some 600 jobs, reducing its work force in Scotland to about 4, 000. It has carried out major rationalisation programmes in all parts of the United Kingdom, and I am sure that it is in its long-term interests to face, in a sensible and realistic way, the commercial decisions that it must make.
I invite the hon. Gentleman to join me in welcoming the fact that, last month alone, unemployment in Scotland fell by 4,500 jobs. In the past seven years, unemployment in East Kilbride has fallen by 2,300 jobs, and unemployment in Scotland is now down to 8.5 per cent. It is falling month by month, and remains lower than unemployment in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Mr. McFall: When will the Conservative party stop telling lies about Labour's proposals for a Scottish Parliament? We have met business people and put our views to them; it has been accepted that there will be no change in corporate taxation, in the framework of financial regulation or in banking regulation. Does not the Conservatives' peddling of crude nationalism damage Scottish business? Do not they realise that decentralisation and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament will stimulate investment in Scottish industry, and do something for the 2,000- odd unemployed people whom the Government have put on the scrap heap?
Mr. Lang: I note that the hon. Gentleman asked that question, rather than his hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), whom I invited to answer a question that I had asked him in writing. I also note that, in his long diatribe, the hon. Gentleman did not answer the specific points that I put to him. Will the Labour party abolish the uniform business rate in Scotland? Will it abolish capping? Will it allow business rates to run riot as they did in the past, and will it impose high income
Column 355tax rates on the people of Scotland through a Scottish Parliament? If the Labour party does that, it will drive away business and drive up unemployment.
Mr. John Marshall: When he meets business leaders, does my right hon. Friend encounter any enthusiasm for a national minimum wage or the adoption of the social chapter? Does he agree that the business community realises that, while Labour may promise to freeze corporation tax, that would merely mean a tax-raising assembly having to increase the burden of taxation on individuals in business?
Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is right. I have found no enthusiasm whatever in the business community for either the social chapter or the minimum wage--or, indeed, for the Scottish Parliament itself. Business men who are realistic and live in the real world are well aware of the huge burdens that it would impose on Scotland, making it the highest-taxed part of the United Kingdom and driving away both inward and existing investment.
12. Ms Rachel Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the future of the deep-mine coal industry in Scotland.
Mr. Stewart: Following the successful privatisation of British Coal, the future of the deep-mine coal industry in Scotland lies with the private sector. The Government believe that privatisation is the key to achieving our aim of securing the largest economically viable coal industry in the longer term. I wish Mining Scotland Limited every success.
Ms Squire: Does the Minister agree that it is vital to the future that he has just outlined for the pumping operations at Frances colliery in Fife to continue, both to allow a full economic appraisal of the colliery's coal reserves and potential and to prevent widespread ecological damage to wide parts of Fife? Will the Minister press the President of the Board of Trade and the licensed coal board, or its successor, to meet the cost of such pumping operations to allow a full examination of the economic and ecological issues?
Mr. Stewart: That is primarily a matter for the river purification board. I understand that the board has written to British Coal asking about its intentions in regard to continued pumping at Frances and, indeed, at Michael colliery.
13. Mr. Macdonald: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give his assessment of the prospects for economic growth in the highlands and islands in 1995-96.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: As a result of the Government's economic policies, the prospects for continuing growth towards long-term prosperity in the highlands and islands look very encouraging.
Mr. Macdonald: Does the Minister understand the disbelief and dismay in the highlands at the fact that, although the European Community has designated the highlands an objective 1
area--recognising that it is one of the poorest and most disadvantaged areas in the Community--the Government are imposing a spending
Column 356freeze on local authorities, forcing them to cut their spending plans and basic services and to propose steep increases in council tax? How can it be right for the European Union to give to the highlands with one hand while the Scottish Office takes with the other?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Grant-aided expenditure for the Western Isles in 1995-96 is £44.6 million, a 3 per cent. increase over the year before. Highlands and Islands Enterprise is being funded to the extent of £77 million. There are many exciting projects in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, not least of which is the extension to Callanish Pharamceuticals, which the hon. Gentleman knows well. I am aware that Western Isles wants a number of objective 1 projects to be included.
Geographical targeting will apply to four programme priorities across a number of sub-areas of the highlands and islands. That will be achieved by determining a minimum level of resources to be allocated to each sub-area over the six years of the programme. There has been some good news for the hon. Gentleman's constituency about ferry services between Harris and North Uist. The hon. Gentleman is aware of that, and we shall not forget his interest in the matter.
Sir Russell Johnston: Will the Minister be so kind as to explain how the cancellation of motor-rail services in Scotland, which carry 20,000 cars a year, many of them from abroad, and the reduction in sleeper services, in particular the cancellation of the service to Fort William, are beneficial to the economic growth of the highlands?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The hon. Gentleman asks a relevant question. I attended a meeting yesterday between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the chairman and chief executive of British Rail. Those services are important for tourism and concern was expressed. British Rail is now continuing to examine options for Carlisle and Fort William sleepers. Options for motor-rail are still being examined. We shall remain in close touch with those who are involved in making the decisions, and I shall bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's interest in increasing tourism in his constituency.
14. Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider introducing legislation to license entertainment clubs in Scotland.
Mr. Stewart: The Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 requires an entertainment licence to be obtained from the local licensing board where alcohol is to be sold for consumption in a place of public entertainment during the permitted hours. In other circumstances, controls may be exercised under section 41 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, which enables local authorities to require places of public entertainment in their areas to be licensed.
Mr. Foulkes: I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful answer. Does he agree that there is a serious gap in the law in that the Hangar 13 club is allowed to operate in spite of the fact that there have been a number of prosecutions for drug dealing at the club? Secondly, on a cross- party basis, Kyle and Carrick district council has voted to withdraw the liquor licence. Thirdly, there is now
Column 357a fatal accident inquiry into three tragic deaths at that venue. Is not it a mockery of the law that the club is allowed to operate as if nothing had happened?
Mr. Stewart: Of course, I entirely accept the hon. Gentleman's concern about Hangar 13. On, I think, 22 November last year, Kyle and Carrick licensing board resolved to suspend the licence on the grounds that the use of the premises caused undue public nuisance or a threat to public order or safety. We are considering whether it would be helpful and practicable to promote model conditions in licences for raves. We shall consult local authority licensing boards and police interests on that.
15. Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has to increase the teaching and use of Gaelic.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Government financial support for the Gaelic language has risen from £60,000 in 1979 to £11.1 million in the current year. Census figures, however, indicate that the number of people who could speak, read or write Gaelic fell from 80,000 in 1981, to 69,000 in 1991. Tha mi an duil ar planaichean air foghlam Gaidhlig fhoillseachadh a dh'aithghearr. As you may know, Madam Speaker, that means that I hope to announce our plans in Gaelic education shortly.
Mr. Flynn: The most moving moment of last year was when a psalm was sung in Gaelic in an Edinburgh church. Was not that moment shared by everyone in the British Isles? Does not the Minister agree that Gaelic and all the other Celtic languages are a great heritage and living treasure and are not the exclusive property of any one single area, political party or religion? They are the property of all of us who live in the British Isles. They are to be cherished, protected, spoken and sung.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I was indeed at the service for the late John Smith and the rendering of Gaelic was singularly impressive on that occasion. Gaelic is one of the special features of Scotland's cultural heritage and the whole country benefits directly or indirectly from the richness provided by an additional indigenous language. We have a good record in that, with the extension, we have doubled the size of the structure of the Gaelic college on Skye. The college is very much a centre of excellence, benefiting the Gaels in north-west Scotland.
Mr. McAvoy: The Minister should be aware of Strathclyde regional council's excellent record in encouraging Gaelic education by providing special classes and extra resources. Does he agree that the foolish and vindictive abolition of that council puts at risk the development of Gaelic as an alternative language in Scotland?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: No, I do not agree with that. Borders regional council is one of the smallest in Scotland, yet it has high standards in teaching. We are considering carefully the inspector's report on the north-west highlands, where Gaelic is spoken, because it has identified a need to increase the number of Gaelic teachers. Problems exist in small schools in remote areas of the north-west highlands.
16. Mr. Chisholm: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the percentage change in net housing capital expenditure between 1994-95 and 1995-96.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Reflecting the growth in owner- occupation, planned net provision for housing revenue account and non-HRA capital expenditure, together with the Scottish Homes development programme, falls by 2.3 per cent. between this year and next. Gross provision is, however, a more realistic measure of the resources available to spend on housing, and on the same basis falls by only 1.0 per cent. Within that, total provision for local authority capital expenditure on its own stock, and the resources for the Scottish Homes development programme remain at broadly this year's levels.
Mr. Chisholm: Why, in a year of cuts, has the most savage blow once again fallen on the housing budget? Will the Minister admit that, if we go forward three years, the real terms cut, even in the gross housing budget, will be 17.5 per cent.? Does not he understand that the homeless cannot wait while money for new building is postponed? Does not he recognise that people living in inadequate housing in my constituency want a speeding up, rather than a slowing down of modernisation programmes and of other improvements?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Gross capital expenditure per house in the public sector is at its highest level and is projected to rise--it is £650 in the current year. Of course, £2.8 billion will be spent on housing in the next three years. Scottish Homes is expected to provide 2,500 units. It has provided impressive work in Muirhouse, which I recently visited and which is in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. It is bringing back into use many more rented houses, which will help the hon. Gentleman's constituents.
Mr. Ian Bruce: Has my hon. Friend had the opportunity to compare the figures for Scotland with those for England and Wales? Will he comment on the very good settlements for Scotland? Especially as we are considering the possibilities of further devolved government in Scotland, would it be helpful to the House if all statistics for Scotland were related to England and Wales, so that we could find out whether Scotland is getting a good deal out of the Union?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: There is much higher public expenditure per head across the range of identifiable subjects--that is beyond dispute. Obviously, we must ensure that resources go where they are most needed. As 300,000 public sector houses in Scotland have been sold to sitting tenants, we cannot expect to spend the same funds as we would have if those 300,000 houses had remained in the public sector.
17. Mr. David Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many Scotsmen emigrated to England in the years 1975 to 1979.
Mr. Lang: Information is not available on migration to England alone. However, between mid-1975 and mid-1979, net migration from Scotland to the rest of the United Kingdom was approximately 5,000 persons
Column 359annually. From 1989 to 1994, there has been an average net migration to Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom of 8,000 per annum.
Mr. Evans: I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Could he tell me whether, with this devolution nonsense and the break-up of the United Kingdom that that lot over there want, which will mean that the Scots will pay approximately twice as much direct taxation as the English, he is planning to rebuild Hadrian's wall? Is he prepared to introduce work permits for Scots who want to work in England when all this nonsense takes place? Is he planning to take on the sacked governor of Parkhurst to look after the wall so that that lot cannot get into England to take English jobs?
Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention in his customary way to the anomalies that would arise were we ever to be so unwise as to weaken Scotland's place in the Westminster Parliament by setting up in Edinburgh a separate Parliament with tax-raising powers. Just as emigration was high under Labour but has moved in the
Column 360opposite direction under Conservative Governments, so, too, under a future Labour Government, there would be a mass exodus from Scotland.
Dr. Reid: Does not the question reveal the contempt in which the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) and his colleagues hold more than 50 per cent. of the population of Scotland in that it deals exclusively with the Scotsmen who emigrated during those years? Is not it a testimony to the foresight and perception of Scotsmen and women that, in the years before the Tory Government, the threat of such a Government forced so many thousands of them between 1975 and 1979 to leave the land that they love? Can we not now take heart from the prospect of a Labour Government which will allow many thousands of Scots throughout the United Kingdom to return happily to the land that was once their own?
Mr. Lang: The hon. Gentleman is obviously wriggling but the fact is that under socialism people left Scotland in very large numbers; under Conservative Governments they have been coming back in very large numbers.
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