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Mr. Salmond: The House believes that, having failed to rewrite the record, the Secretary of State is now engaged in a process of rewriting history. Why cannot we have a straight answer to the question: will the services still be available when the formal consultation exercise starts-- yes or no?
Mr. Lang: That is a different question and is a matter for British Rail and ScotRail. If the services are not available--if British Rail were to contemplate their removal--it, too, would engage in consultation with the rail users consultative committee. If closure had taken place, the assets would still be in place and, in response to subsequent PSR consultations, could, if necessary, be reinstated.
Mr. McFall: Is the Secretary of State aware of the inauspicious comments of the director of ScotRail, Mr. John Ellis, who, two short months ago, as production director, said that Railtrack could not take into account social issues? He could not see much being done to equip branch lines. Does the Secretary of State not realise that those comments mean a debilitating future for economic development, tourism and community life in the highlands? Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear whether services will be shut before there is consultation? Labour Members are asking for a one-word answer with either two letters or three: yes or no?
Column 347meeting with the chairman of Railtrack last week and am confident that he is extremely positive and ambitious to maintain and, indeed, expand services in Scotland.
11. Mr. Galloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will urgently meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress to discuss recent manufacturing job losses in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. McKelvey: When the Secretary of States gets the opportunity to discuss with the STUC the economy of Scotland and the important part that the economy of Ayrshire can play, will he explain to it that, for 25 years, the people of Ayrshire have been desperate for a road that can lead them down to the south but have been landlocked? When he meets the STUC, will he be able to say that the M77 is either completed or that it is near completion and that the A77 will be upgraded to meet the M77, to release the people of Ayrshire so that they may travel south?
Mr. Kynoch: We are very well aware of the strong feelings of hon. Members from Ayrshire about road links. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the roads will proceed, and on schedule. I certainly hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to report positively in answer to the question.
Mr. Galloway: Will the Minister test on the STUC the absurd equation often canvassed by the Government in the House between the proliferation in Scotland of temporary, low-paid, short-term and often contract jobs assembling other people's manufactures or forklifting other people's goods around empty warehouses, and the jobs that have been lost designing aircraft, building ships, mining coal and making steel--real manufacturing jobs that have been lost to Scotland during these dismal, bitter Tory years?
Mr. Kynoch: The hon. Gentleman lives in a rather unreal world. He must accept that conditions change from day to day and that businesses in Scotland have to adapt to those changing circumstances, but that what is important is that the Government put in place the right economic factors to guarantee that business can thrive. I would argue strongly that the Government have achieved just that and that with unemployment steadily falling that is being proved time and again. The worry of business in Scotland today is that the tax rises and cost increases that are likely to come from the Opposition's proposal for a devolved, tax-raising Scottish Parliament will drive business away from Scotland and not be in the best interests of the Scottish economy.
Mr. Gallie: Bearing in mind the massive investment of the Government and Strathclyde in the M77, is my hon. Friend aware of the disruption being caused to the work there by protesters? Will he do what he can to protect that
Column 348investment by ensuring that the new law on aggravated trespass, which he and I supported last year, is in force to ensure that the road goes ahead?
Mr. Kynoch: Of course I am aware of the instances referred to by my hon. Friend, but it is a matter for the police authorities. I can assure my hon. Friend that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for roads will keep a careful eye on progress.
Mr. Stewart: When my hon. Friend meets the STUC, will he re- emphasise the importance of business rates to jobs in Scotland? Will he seek the valuable assistance of the STUC in attempting to clarify what on earth is the Labour party's policy on that?
Mr. Kynoch: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) seeking clarification of the Labour party's policy. If it wishes to return business rates to the control of local government, I would argue strongly that that bodes badly for Scottish business. Under the Government, business rates have been brought down from 76p to 43p, which is good news for Scottish business.
Mr. Davidson: Does the Minister accept that the state of the Scottish economy will be one of the issues under discussion in the forthcoming by-election in Scotland? Does he further accept that the anticipated defeat of the Conservative party by the Scottish National party by a majority of at least 10,000 to 15,000 reflects the view that the Scottish people seek to serve upon the Government that enough is enough and that Scots will unite behind any party which wishes and is able to defeat the Government?
Mr. Kynoch: I am confident that the economy will play a significant part in any forthcoming by-election. I am equally confident that the Government's argument is sound. The policies of the Scottish National party and the Labour party, to which I referred earlier, clearly point to increasing costs and taxes for Scottish business, which bodes badly for investment, both inward and within Scottish business.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: At the end of September 1994, more than 300,000 houses had been sold by public sector landlords in Scotland to sitting tenants under the right-to-buy legislation. This has opened up the opportunity for home ownership for many people, and I am delighted that the Government overcame opposition from the Labour party to secure it for them.
Mr. Marshall: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which confirms that every fifth Scottish family is living in a home bought under the right -to-buy legislation. Is that not remarkable progress from the days when Labour local authorities were loth to co-operate and Labour Members said that no one would want to buy? Does that not show that Conservative policies work to the benefit of the people of Scotland?
Column 349as well as right-to-buy sales, the figure is nearly 310,000. We have now substantially overtaken England, as 30 per cent. of Scottish public sector stock has now been sold compared with 27.6 per cent. in England. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), who is in his place, should remember when he and his party strongly opposed the right to buy. I believe that they now regret the stance that they once took.
Mr. Watson: The Minister has given us the figures for right-to-buy legislation, but what about those people who choose not to buy but want the right to rent? Will the Minister provide the figures for the number of council houses that have been built since the Conservatives came to power in 1979? Why does he consider it necessary to narrow the right to rent to those authorities that the Government have established? Many people wish to remain council house tenants and want the right to rent a modern house. How many have been built since 1979?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The number of houses built in Scotland since 1979 is nearly 300,000; the number of council houses runs into many tens of thousands. If local authorities wish to choose as their priority to build more council houses, they have the right to do so. Of course, Scottish Homes is giving priority to providing rented housing through housing associations that are especially geared to the needs of priority groups throughout Scotland.
Mr. Foulkes: Is the Minister aware that large rent increases have turned the right to buy into the need to buy? Is he aware that Scottish Homes has increased rents by 4.2 per cent.--twice the rate of inflation? How does he expect ordinary working people, whose wages are either pegged or reduced, to pay those huge rent increases?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The hon. Gentleman is well aware that some £800 million a year is being spent on housing benefit targeted on those who need it and who are paying rent. The hon. Gentleman wishes to reduce rents in Scotland, which on average are £7 or £8 below those south of the border, but if less rent is paid, less will be spent on management and maintenance and the housing stock will suffer. If rents are reasonable, management and maintenance can also be reasonable and houses will be in better condition.
13. Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the rules and regulations in his Department which have been withdrawn in the last 12 months, or which his Department plans to withdraw in the next 12 months; and what assessment he has made of the impact that this will have on his Department's manpower.
Mr. Steen: Is the Secretary of State aware that more rules and regulations are being passed by the House than are being repealed? Does he agree that the problem is not just Europe, but the interpretation of those rules and regulations by officials in Scotland and elsewhere? How
Column 350will the Secretary of State increase the deregulation initiative in Scotland and reduce the number of rules and regulations being considered by the House?
Mr. Lang: I assure my hon. Friend that I am entirely in sympathy with the thrust of his question. It is highly desirable that we reduce the number of regulations as they impose a burden not only on their own administration, but also on those who are obliged, sometimes unnecessarily, to comply with their terms. It is important that they are constantly reviewed and I am ensuring that my Department is fully involved in the deregulation initiative running through all Departments.
Mr. Worthington: Does the Secretary of State set any rules and regulations for the response times of his Ministers to letters? Do those regulations apply to the noble Lord Fraser, and how is it possible to get an answer from the noble Lord in less than two to three months?
Mr. Lang: I am certain that my right hon. and noble Friend responds in far less time to the vast majority of letters sent to him, but I shall certainly draw to his attention the fact that the hon. Gentleman is awaiting a reply to a letter that has been outstanding for that period.
14. Sir David Steel: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the outcome of his consultations with British Rail on the proposed withdrawal of sleeper and Motorail services from Scotland and Carlisle.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: My right hon. Friend and I have discussed a wide range of topics with British Rail relating to railway matters affecting Scotland, including sleeper and Motorail services.
Sir David Steel: Why are Ministers reneging on the undertaking given to the Scottish Grand Committee that consultation would take place before any services were withdrawn? Is the Minister aware that the phrase used by the Secretary of State this afternoon--"diminution of service"--will go down in history, along with "economical with the truth", as a euphemism for the complete destruction of the Motorail service? Does the Minister recognise that it is perverse to cancel Motorail services to Scotland just when we are opening them under the channel?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Following publication of the passenger service requirement, the Franchising Director will consult formally--as the right hon. Gentleman has already been told--with both the rail users consultative committee for Scotland and local authorities before making final decisions on the PSR. Both under nationalisation and now, British Rail has had the power to stop a service at any time if that is its resolve and determination, but I have made it clear, both now and in the past, that final decisions will be made at the end of that formal consultation.
Incidentally, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) was entirely wrong: Hansard was not tampered with. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), who chaired the Grand Committee, has written to every member making the facts absolutely clear. The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with presenting facts that obviously do not accord with reality.
15. Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the proportion of United Kingdom local and national taxation raised in Scotland; and what is the proportion of local and national Government spending in Scotland.
Mr. Lang: The Government collect revenue on a United Kingdom basis. In 1992-93, the latest year for which data are available, the revenue raised in Scotland through the four main sources of income tax, national insurance contributions, VAT and local government revenues formed approximately 8.3 per cent. of the United Kingdom total. The Government estimate that in the same year Scotland's share of identifiable Government expenditure was 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom total. That figure excludes expenditure incurred on behalf of the United Kingdom as a whole, or which cannot readily be identified as incurred on behalf of particular countries.
Mr. Bruce: Has my hon. Friend considered the idea of establishing a separate Scottish Parliament with revenue-raising powers? Has his Department calculated the extent to which the balance would shift as a result of both the additional costs of such a Parliament and a possible reduction of the positivity with which costs are currently dealt with by the United Kingdom Parliament?
Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is right to identify the potential danger to Scotland if a tax-raising Scottish Parliament were established. With 8.8 per cent. of the United Kingdom's population, Scotland generates less in revenue than her population share and receives more from the United Kingdom Treasury. Consequently, if any tax-raising powers were taken by a Scottish Parliament--as threatened by the Labour party--Scotland's existing funding arrangements would inevitably come under closer scrutiny, and might well lead to the reduction referred to by my hon. Friend.
Mr. Duncan: Given my right hon. Friend's answer, if those net transfer payments to Scotland were removed would not Scotland have far fewer resources to spend on its needs? Is it not also a grave deceit to pretend to the people of Scotland that any shortfall would be made up by payments from the European Union? Is it not abundantly clear that any proposal to devolve tax-raising powers to Scotland would ensure that the people of Scotland ended up poorer?
Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In this country, we seek to ensure the delivery of comparable standards of public services in all parts of the United Kingdom. That necessarily and properly leads to higher expenditure in some parts of the United Kingdom--such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales--that have greater needs. Such expenditure would, however, be put at risk if a tax-raising Parliament were set up in Scotland.
Column 352the Scottish sector of the North sea and the benefit to the Treasury from the privatisation of Scotland's public assets, the Government's economic policy would be down the plughole?
Mr. Lang: The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. In the last year for which North sea figures are available--1993-94--revenue amounted to some £1.2 billion. That would not begin to bridge the funding gap that Scotland would experience in the circumstances threatened by the Labour party.
Mr. McAvoy: Does the Secretary of State accept that many factors must be taken into account when forming a judgment on the disposal of national assets, especially by the Treasury, and that mortgage tax relief subsidy is one of the most important factors? Does he agree that, in that regard, south-east England receives far more from the national Exchequer than Scotland?
Mr. Lang: The hon. Gentleman is right on that point, but if he considers income tax revenue, VAT revenue, local government revenue and national insurance contributions, he will find that the equation tilts heavily in the other direction.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: A range of Scottish Office-funded bodies promote international interest in Scottish life and culture, although their activities are not targeted specifically at the Scots diaspora. For example, the Scottish tourist board's marketing and promotional activities continue to foster historical and cultural links in the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where ties with Scotland remain.
Mr. Mackinlay: Does the Secretary of State understand that the monopoly that his Government gave the British Airports Authority over the principal airports of the UK means that people who wish to visit the UK always visit Heathrow first? Should he not have put some time, energy and resources into encouraging people from North America and Australasia to visit Scotland as the first port of call, rather than the overcrowded Heathrow airport?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's point. Tourism is the largest employer in Scotland. We have agreed to contribute £20,000 towards the production of a British Council-Scottish Arts Council guide to the arts in Scotland, which is aimed primarily at overseas tourists. The Scotland international register is an initiative to encourage the private sector to develop contacts with distinguished Scots and business men abroad. We hope that those contacts will strengthen enterprise, development and tourism in Scotland.
Mrs. Adams: Does the Minister realise that, since his party came to power in 1979, my constituency has lost some 80 per cent. of its manufacturing jobs? In the light of his inadequate answer to my hon. Friends the Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) and for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway), when will the Government realise that a strong economy cannot be built by people selling each other hamburgers? It will be built only when the Government start to deal with the disasters that have taken place in manufacturing industry.
Mr. Kynoch: I hoped that the hon. Lady might have welcomed the fact that, last month, Babcock Energy Ltd. in her constituency announced that the jobs of its 700-strong work force would be secured as a result of a £125 million order for boilers from a power station in China. She is doing her businesses a great disservice by selling Scotland down the river.
Mr. Ingram: Does the Minister accept that that is the most complacent answer that he could possibly give on one of the key issues facing Scotland? Since the Government came to power, 50 per cent. of all aerospace jobs have been lost to the Scottish economy. Is he aware that Rolls-Royce intends to cut another 600 highly skilled jobs in that economy? Why have the Government remained silent on that announcement? Is it because they do not understand its impact, because they do not care, or both?
Mr. Kynoch: The hon. Gentleman must place the changes in Rolls-Royce in the context of world affairs. He might be interested to know that Rolls- Royce is not alone in its problems. Its two major competitors, General Electric and Pratt and Whitney, have made massive job cuts, including 14,000 redundancies that were announced in 1993. At the same time, Boeing announced 80,000 job losses. He might also like to know that Rolls-Royce in East Kilbride has recently announced two major, long-term repair and maintenance contracts with Cyprus
Column 354Airways and China Eastern Airlines. The hon. Gentleman should start talking Scottish prospects up rather than down.
Mr. Salmond: As we are about to have a discussion founded on the principle of democratic consent, can the Minister point to what area of democratic consent in Scotland justifies the removal of Scottish water from local democratic control?
Mr. Kynoch: The hon. Gentleman should realise that in Scotland over the next 10 to 15 years we have to find some £5 billion of capital expenditure to improve services. My right hon. Friend has set up structures with the intention of ensuring that we get the best value for money. We believe in ensuring that we get the best possible services at the lowest possible cost--something that the hon. Gentleman will never understand.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: My right hon. Friend and I liaise closely with our colleagues in the other education Departments. Requirements for entry to higher education, however, are a matter for the institutions themselves to determine.
Mr. Fabricant: Does my hon. Friend agree that the England and Wales Department for Education has a lot to learn from Scotland? Does he believe, as I do, that there are too many scientists who are inarticulate and too many managers and, perhaps, Members of Parliament too, who are innumerate? Should not we have a broader base of education in England and Wales for entry to university, as in Scotland?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We have a great deal to learn from each other. Access to higher education is being enormously increased, which is to the benefit of students throughout the United Kingdom. We intend to play our full part in that.
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