Home Page

Column 329

Oral Answers to Questions


NHS Trusts

1. Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the quality of management of health service trusts and fundholder practices in Scotland.     [13626]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): The quality of the management of NHS trusts and GP fundholding practices is assessed through their performance in delivering quality patient care. They have been most successful: more patients have been treated, waiting times have fallen and new services have been developed.

Mr. Wray: Does the Under-Secretary agree that fundholding practices in Scotland are a disgrace and that we do not want them? The Government have recommended that there should be 11,000 fundholding practices, but the amalgamation of some of them has brought the number down to 4,000. In fact, there are only 107 fundholding practices out of the 1,000 practices in Scotland. Trusts have turned the health service into a greyhound service. One of my constituents was taken to hospital with a heart attack at 3 o'clock in the morning. He was sent home alone, in a taxi dressed in just a robe. He was taken back to the hospital at 8 o'clock and died at 10 o'clock. That is a disgrace. The health service should be cleared up.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: On the unfortunate death of Mr. McGowan in January 1994, the three main recommendations addressed to the Government are being considered by the NHS executive. There are 22 intensive care beds in Glasgow hospitals. Following a review by Greater Glasgow health board, a further four beds have been funded and all aspects of the sheriff's findings at the fatal accident inquiry are being addressed.

We believe that trusts bring a great many benefits. Record numbers of patients have been treated. There are shorter waiting lists and waiting times and more information and choice is being given to patients. There are new services and improvements. GP fundholders have greater freedom and improved communications. They are providing more services and are developing new or improved services. At least 30 per cent. of the Scots population will benefit from their GP being involved in either standard fundholding or primary care purchasing.

Mr. Bill Walker: Is my hon. Friend aware that the majority of people of Tayside believe that our health service in Tayside is second to none anywhere in the world? A number of our GPs are fundholders and they, too, believe that they are providing a service that is second to none. Is not it time that we began to talk up the value of our health service and those who are dedicated to it and work in it instead of constantly attacking it?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I can announce today that for the relatively few cases where there are serious complaints, we are putting in place a new complaints procedure from April 1996 so that there will be a response from the provider of the service, the opportunity for a review of

Column 330

the complaint by a panel with an independent lay chairman and recourse to the health service commissioner. We feel that that will greatly assist in the few cases where there are legitimate complaints.

Dr. Bray: The public have a duty not to abuse the health service, but will the Minister keep an eye on any tendency by fundholding practices or other general practices to purge patients from their lists in a wholesale manner?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We believe that there are substantial benefits to be gained from GP fundholding. We believe that it will result in a better service for the patients concerned. We do not want to see a deterioration of service, which is the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. McAllion: Are we still dealing with the management of a genuinely national health service? If we are, how can the Minister justify the introduction of local pay bargaining, which means that nurses and midwives in one part of Scotland will be paid less than those in other parts? Since that cannot be justified, will the Minister take the opportunity to announce that he is scrapping local pay bargaining and instructing the management of every NHS trust in Scotland to pay the full 3 per cent. to all nurses and midwives, with no strings attached? If he is not prepared to announce that, will he attend one of the rallies to be held across Scotland on 30 March by nurses and midwives, at which he will be able to explain to them face to face why national pay bargaining in the NHS is good enough for consultants and doctors but not for nurses and midwives?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The hon. Gentleman should be clear that under the management allowance for GP fundholders some 2 per cent. of overall funds for patient care are managed by fundholders. It is not a payment for GPs, but a reimbursement of their administrative costs. Obviously, those at the sharp end of the health service should be paid the going rate for the job.


2. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland who (a) required the bodies found and pronounced life extinct by Dr. David Fieldhouse, Bradford police surgeon, to be re-examined for signs of life in the presence of witnesses at a later stage, as described on page 36 of the determination by Sheriff Principal John Mowat QC in respect of Lockerbie and (b) ordered that two days, or a substantial part thereof, should be allowed to lapse between Dr. Fieldhouse's confirmation of life extinct and the subsequent confirmation and certifications; and for what reasons many bodies were left out in the fields for that period of time.     [13627]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang): In the immediate aftermath of the Lockerbie disaster Dr. Fieldhouse found and pronounced life extinct in 58 bodies. Sheriff Principal John Mowat QC concluded in his determination on the proceedings at the fatal accident inquiry that Dr. Fieldhouse verbally related information concerning his activities to a senior police officer at 7 pm on 22 December 1988. Although this information was also relayed in a letter from Dr. Fieldhouse to the police dated 23 December 1988, the letter was not received at

Column 331

Lockerbie until 27 December 1988. The sheriff principal concluded that the verbal information given by Dr. Fieldhouse had, as a result of the circumstances obtaining at that time, been understandably overlooked. In the intervening period arrangements had been made to recover the bodies of the victims by a systematic and meticulous search and recovery operation and all the 58 bodies dealt with by Dr. Fieldhouse were recovered before his letter arrived. The process of search and recovery, unfortunately and inevitably, took some time.

Mr. Dalyell: Was any dead body taken from the scene, thereby avoiding its inclusion in the official list of those who died?

Mr. Lang: No.

Labour Statistics

3. Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the change in the number of unemployed since December 1992.     [13628]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Kynoch): Between December 1992 and February 1995, seasonally adjusted unemployment in Scotland fell by 41,700.

Mr. Marshall: Does my hon. Friend agree that that substantial reduction in unemployment is partly due to Scotland's success in attracting new industry? Does he believe that inward investment would be encouraged by Scotland signing up to the social chapter-- [Hon. Members:-- "Hear, hear."]--adopting a national minimum wage-- [Hon. Members:-- "Hear, hear.]--or having a tax-raising Scottish Assembly-- [Hon. Members:-- "Hear, hear.]? The cheers of Opposition Members show how blinkered and stupid they are.

Mr. Kynoch: I agree thoroughly with my hon. Friend, and Opposition Members' cheers unfortunately show that they are out of touch with the realities of business.

My hon. Friend referred to inward investment. In 1993-94, Locate in Scotland and the Scottish Office Industry Department helped to attract 95 projects involving planned investment of £588 million and the creation or safeguarding of more than 11,000 jobs. If the United Kingdom signed the social chapter or if Scotland had higher taxes than the rest of the United Kingdom, many of those jobs would be put in jeopardy.

Mr. Maxton: Does the Minister share the concern of the people of Scotland at the loss of high-skill jobs at the BBC in recent weeks? Will he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State organise an urgent meeting with John Birt, Director-General of the BBC, to ensure that there are no further job losses, as there will come a point when BBC Scotland will become incapable of carrying out its role as the major broadcaster in Scotland if it loses more skilled staff?

Mr. Kynoch: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but, with due respect, it is up to Mr. Birt to decide how best to run the BBC. I have a lot more faith than the hon. Gentleman in the skills and expertise of the BBC in Scotland in making its case for maintaining a sound, professional and positive presence in Scotland.

Column 332

University Budgets

4. Mr. Nigel Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with vice-principals of universities to discuss their budgetary requirements.     [13629]

Mr. Lang: I met the committee of Scottish higher education principals in June 1994. We discussed a number of matters, including the funding of higher education.

Mr. Griffiths: Is not it a pity that the Secretary of State did not listen to the committee? Does not he realise from the settlement last week that not only are students now driven to poverty but universities and colleges in Scotland find that they cannot make ends meet? Why does not the Secretary of State listen to the distinguished principals of the Scottish institutions and reverse the cuts that he imposed on the vast majority of them last week or tell them where his so-called efficiency savings have come from?

Mr. Lang: The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. Funding for higher education institutions has been increased by £25 million to £618 million for next year--an increase of 4.2 per cent. What is more, resources available to students through grants and student loans have increased by 19 per cent. in real terms since 1989-90.

Mr. Stewart: Does my right hon. Friend agree that some 33 per cent. of those in the relevant age group are now in higher education in Scotland compared with some 17 per cent. under the last Labour Government? Does he agree that that has not been at the cost of any drop in quality? For example, the independent teaching assessment placed four Scottish universities--Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and, of course, St. Andrews-- in the "excellent" category.

Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is right on both points. Not only has participation doubled in the relevant age groups since the Government took office but, as he points out, there has been no loss in the quality of the performance of our best universities. No fewer than 30 per cent. of the departments appraised have been categorised as excellent.

Mr. Wallace: In the light of what the Secretary of State has just confirmed about the increase in student numbers, will he comment on the remark made by Professor John Arbuthnott, the convener of the committee of Scottish higher education principals? In the aftermath of the announcement last week, he said that this was expansion on the cheap which would further threaten the ability of the institutions to maintain quality. Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to repudiate the suggestion made yesterday by Professor Donald Leach of Queen Margaret college that students should take out loans to pay modest fees for the courses on which they have embarked?

Mr. Lang: Happily, higher education principals are rather more positive and sensible in their attitude to these matters than the hon. Gentleman suggests. As for the funding of students, even the National Union of Students is now looking at more positive and creative ways of achieving better funding for students.

Mr. McMaster: Will the Secretary of State consider how local enterprise companies could help get the evil

Column 333

drug temazepam off the streets in Renfrewshire? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the local enterprise company could play a role--

Madam Speaker: Order. I wonder whether I am reading the question correctly. It is about the budgetary requirements of universities: we are on Question 4.

Mr. McMaster: Could the LECs work in tandem with universities to use their research facilities to examine how temazepam could be taken off the streets? It would be of great advantage to the police in their efforts to get the drug off the streets if the Secretary of State made it a schedule 3 rather than a schedule 4 drug.

Mr. Lang: I am sure that the relevant bodies will have heard the hon. Gentleman's subtle, inventive and creative question--perhaps a university or higher education institution should establish a course on the matter.

Mrs. Fyfe: In this week of science, engineering and technology, will the Secretary of State tell us which of his Government's policies he thinks contributes most to higher education, and particularly to courses that cost more to take but are essential for our economic revival? Could it be the policy of making higher education institutions do more with less money for each student? Could it be the fiasco of the Student Loans Company, which puts more energy into chasing debts than awarding loans? Could it be the Government's recent decision--contrary to that of all previous Governments, both Conservative and Labour--to withdraw the allowance for mature students and to force who knows how many into giving up courses for which they have worked and sacrificed to gain entry? Our students are trying to learn, but when will the Government ever learn?

Mr. Lang: I can assume only that the hon. Lady's question is prompted by embarrassment at the Opposition's lamentable record on higher education when in government, compared with the record that we have achieved in the past 15 years. Perhaps she did not hear me point out that the number of students partaking of higher education has doubled since this Government took office and that the quality of the education that they are obtaining is in many cases excellent; that funding next year is up by 4.2 per cent.; and that there will also be a record number of more than 118,000 places in Scottish institutions next year.

Local Enterprise Companies

5. Mr. Norman Hogg: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will announce the new boundaries for local enterprise companies; and if he will make a statement.     [13630]

Mr. Kynoch: My right hon. Friend will make an announcement on new boundaries for local enterprise companies after he has received and considered recommendations from Scottish Enterprise.

Mr. Hogg: Why are the Government taking such an inordinate time to reach a conclusion on what should be a relatively simple matter? Should not Members of the House, who are responsible for the funding of Scottish Enterprise and the enterprise companies, be consulted? The Government have not consulted the House properly, and are they not trying to draw up boundaries after local government reorganisation? They should have known

Column 334

their intentions in this important matter a long time ago. How does the Minister explain the Government's incompetence?

Mr. Kynoch: I must give the hon. Member full marks for his persistence because he has been a firm advocate of certain boundaries as regards his area. He will be well aware that, with his colleagues, he visited my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) when he held office, to discuss the subject, and that he has had discussions with Scottish Enterprise, as have local enterprise companies, the new town development corporations and many other interested organisations, including local authorities. There has been very wide consultation on the subject and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would want to ensure that all aspects are covered before a decision is reached. I understand that we are close to receiving recommendations from Scottish Enterprise. When those are forthcoming, we will inform the House.

Mr. Gallie: Is my hon. Friend aware that, under the boundary change that will take Helensburgh into Argyll, socialist Labour-controlled Dumbarton district council is carrying out a massive asset-stripping exercise in Helensburgh, right down to removing glasshouses from gardens? Is not that absolutely disgraceful and does it not ignore the fact that people in Helensburgh have paid for the assets through their council tax and community charge in recent years?

Mr. Kynoch: I think that my hon. Friend might be talking about local government boundaries, as opposed to local enterprise companies. I am sure that he will be aware that there have been significant consultations with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on the distribution of assets, and that the matter is still under discussion.

Mr. Worthington: The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) does not know his local enterprise company from his local authority. When we met the Minister's predecessor, he agreed that any proposal for Dunbartonshire that involved Clydebank and Dumbarton being linked with Renfrew was absurd and that any absorption of Clydebank or any other authorities into Glasgow would be absurd. He also agreed that the present boundaries for the LEC were sound. Does this Minister agree, or will he also be changed soon?

Mr. Kynoch: I believe that the hon. Member made representations to my predecessor and to Scottish Enterprise. I am rather more patient than him: I want to await the results of the other consultations to ensure that a proper argument is presented and that the decision that we reach is based on the widest possible consultation.

Scottish Assembly

6. Lady Olga Maitland: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had from businesses with regard to a Scottish Assembly.     [13631]

Mr. Lang: It is clear from what Scottish business men and women tell me that they believe that the Labour party's proposals for a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers would, if implemented, immensely

Column 335

damage Scottish business. They fear that it would raise costs, undermine confidence, jeopardise investment and inward investment and destroy jobs.

Lady Olga Maitland: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that businesses go further than that and are threatening to pack up and leave Scotland, taking jobs and investment with them? They fear the proposed Scottish Assembly with its tax-raising powers of 3p in the pound, which will affect every family in Scotland to the tune of £4 a week.

Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the considerable dangers that would flow from the creation of a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers. Although 3p in the pound would amount to more than £6 a week for the average family, it would be only the beginning of what the Labour party would seek to achieve through a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers, as it would account for only some 2 per cent. of the present Scottish Office block. The burden of higher taxation, which Scotland alone would face under a Scottish Parliament, would penalise the Scottish people and drive industry away.

Mr. Graham: The Secretary of State is now aware that the people of Ireland will have the right to a referendum. Why do not the people of Scotland have that right?

Mr. Lang: The people of Scotland had a referendum in 1979, in which they failed to support the Labour party's proposals.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: In an effort to foster greater understanding of how the House deals with Scottish business, will my right hon. Friend consider holding a series of seminars on the way in which the House operates? As a matter of urgency, will he invite the Leader of the Opposition to the first one, as on Sunday he showed an alarming ignorance about how the House deals with Scottish business?

Mr. Lang: If the Leader of the Opposition does not know how the House of Commons handles Scottish legislation, how on earth is he in a position to say how a Scottish Parliament should do so?

Mrs. Ewing: Will the Secretary of State list the representations received from businesses in Scotland about the current policies exercised by this Unionist Government? For example, will he explain why the tourist and whisky industries are now subjected to substantial pressures as a result of the mothballing of three distilleries, and why the fishing industry, which is vital to communities in north-east Scotland, is not protected by the Government within the European Union?

Mr. Lang: The hon. Lady has managed to ask three questions about three different industries. I shall answer in the context of the question that was tabled, which relates to a proposed Scottish Assembly. The creation of a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers, adding another burden of taxation and bureaucracy on the people of Scotland, would damage rather than help the industries to which the hon. Lady referred.

Mr. George Robertson: Is the Secretary of State aware that one of the roles for a Scottish Parliament--the Labour party will deliver a Scottish Parliament after the next election and it will be universally popular among all

Column 336

sections of the Scottish people--will be to take back into full democratic control Scotland's water supplies? Today, on the anniversary of the 97 per cent. bloody nose that people gave the Secretary of State for Scotland in the Strathclyde referendum, will he recognise that his quangoisation will transform Scotland's water, which is among the safest, cleanest and cheapest in the world, into among the most expensive in Europe? Why does he not recognise the folly of his arrogant refusal to listen to the people of Scotland and abandon that plan now?

Mr. Lang: The hon. Gentleman is lamentably ignorant about the facts of the matter. I have no doubt that the creation of those new water and sewerage authorities will lead to a more efficient delivery of water and sewerage systems in Scotland at the least extra cost to the Scottish people. I am concerned about the capacity that a Scottish Parliament would have to abolish the uniform business rate, whereby businesses in Scotland now pay rates averaging 43p in the pound compared with the 76p in the pound that they would otherwise pay.

Value-added Indicators

7. Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress is being made in incorporating value-added indicators in the performance data available in Scottish schools; and if he will make a statement.     [13632]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Her Majesty's inspectors already provide schools with tables showing the value added in the upper stages of secondary schools. Work is now under way to develop additional measures of value added for use in both primary and secondary schools, and those measures will be tried out in a number of schools this year.

Mr. Robertson: Does my hon. Friend agree that despite the scaremongering and the misrepresentation of the Opposition, Scottish parents have come to value the information given by schools? Does he further agree that information should not be restricted simply to examination results, but should cover as many areas as possible in the life of a school, so that parents, teachers and pupils know as much as possible about what is going on, and how it is achieved, in schools in Scotland which are, after all, the centre of so many of our communities?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The British social attitudes report published last year showed that no fewer than 73 per cent. of the public supported the publication of examination results, which the Opposition originally opposed. I also agree with my hon. Friend about making more information available about extra- curricular activities. We already encourage schools to publish in their handbooks information on achievements by their pupils in sport, music and the arts. I am also glad to say that we have made more information available on truancy by publishing the relevant results. They showed that authorised and unauthorised absences averaged about 6 per cent. in primary schools in 1993-94. That is roughly the same as each primary school missing two school weeks out of 38 and 10 million half-days lost. There is

Column 337

therefore a heavy responsibility on parents to keep a close eye on school attendance in the interests of their children. We are making more information available, not less.

Mr. Davidson: Does the Minister believe that there is a direct, inverse or no relationship between the value added by schools and the spending on them?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We must spend the necessary sums on schools. We believe that the value added should be additional to information about exams and that that information must be made available. The COSLA working party and the Scottish Office Education Department are taking that matter forward.

Mr. George Robertson: Is it not undisputed that the performance of all Scotland's schools will be affected by the costly, unwanted and ill- prepared reorganisation of local government? The creation of 32 education authorities, where previously there were just 11, is bound to have a disruptive effect on the education system. Why should Scotland's children pay the price in a damaging disruption to their education, on the basis of a reorganisation that was not wanted by the Scottish people, is far more costly than the Government pretend and was designed simply for the convenience of the Scottish Conservative party? Does the Minister agree that two weeks tomorrow, when elections take place across Scotland, the gerrymandering in which the Government have indulged will boomerang because they will win not a single council in Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The hon. Member is wrong on every count. Let us take, for example, Borders regional council, which is one of the smallest regional authorities in Scotland. It has an excellent education service. I must tell him that the last time local government was reorganised, 18,000 extra local authority officials were created in two years, which made the whole process much more bureaucratic. We believe that simplifying the processes of local government will make it more responsive to local democracy, which we wholeheartedly support.

Private Residential Homes

8. Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received about the ownership and management of private residential homes for the elderly.     [13633]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: In the past six months, my right hon. Friend has received four letters about standards in residential care homes.

Dr. Godman: Does the Minister agree that it is entirely unethical for a medical practitioner who owns such a home to act as the general practitioner to his own residents? Does he agree that confused, elderly people, particularly those suffering from dementia, should have ready access to independent medical assessment and treatment? When will he introduce a statutory code of practice to outlaw medical practitioners, lawyers and accountants from acting in a professional capacity vis-a -vis residents of their own residential homes?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The hon. Gentleman is correct that nothing currently prohibits the arrangement that he mentioned. That will be considered by the Scottish Office working group. There have been calls for changes

Column 338

in the legislation and I can tell the hon. Gentleman that Scottish Office officials are considering such issues in general as a result of the disturbing incident at Glenglova. We are determined to see the highest standards imposed. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the registration of residential care homes is in the gift of a local authority and if those high standards are not maintained, registration can be withdrawn.

The hon. Gentleman asked about appeals. There have been about six appeals and, in the vast majority of cases, high standards are maintained and the local authorities have the necessary powers. However, we are carefully considering whether the time scale should be altered, as has been suggested. That is one of the issues that is currently being considered by the working group.

Mrs. Ray Michie: Is the Minister aware that, because those residential homes are very expensive, costing about £300 to £400 a week, many people who were persuaded to buy their council houses must now sell them to pay for their care in a residential home? How does that equate with Mrs. Thatcher's famous wealth trickle-down theory, whereby everyone was to be able to have their house and pass it on to their children and grandchildren? I can tell the Minister that, as I am sure that he is aware, the people feel very betrayed as they witness more and more geriatric care beds disappearing from the national health service.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: It is not clear from the tenor of the hon. Lady's question whether she is demanding tax relief or what solution she would propose. It has always been the position, under successive Governments, that elderly persons who live in residential homes can be charged when circumstances warrant it.

Mr. Michael J. Martin: The Minister will know that many dedicated men and women do not want their loved ones to go into homes when they get dementia and Alzheimer's disease; they want to support their loved ones in their own home. Yet the Minister must know that care in the community is only words--it is non-existent. The Government should be doing more to support organisations such as the Alzheimer's Association for Scotland, which can support relatives who look after their loved ones.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We are providing substantial sums for care in the community. The Government have provided a further £55 million this year for community care infrastructure. Obviously, the resources must follow the patient and the hon. Member is correct to say that many families have a strong preference for looking after their relatives in the community. There are also various grants; we are giving about £15 million a year for bridging finance and we shall ensure that the necessary resources follow the patient.

Scottish Economy

9. Dr. Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has recently had with the chairman of Scottish Enterprise on the Scottish economy; and if he will make a statement.     [13634]

Column 339

Mr. Lang: I regularly meet the chairman of Scottish Enterprise to discuss a variety of issues relating to the Scottish economy.

Dr. Reid: The performance of the Secretary of State on the Scottish economy can be summed up in two words--

Mr. McMaster: Which two?

Dr. Reid: They are not the two that my hon. Friend is thinking about --they are Rolls-Royce.

I remind the Secretary of State that, although Ministers may have forgotten Rolls-Royce, Opposition Members have not. Does he realise that there will be, not only a loss of jobs, important though that is, but a potential loss of skills at the forefront of technology from Scotland and the United Kingdom to Germany? If the Secretary of State is not prepared to do anything, will the Government and the bunch of pathetic Ministers who have sat idly by while Rolls-Royce has been sold down the tube in Scotland move aside and make way for those of us who will do something about it?

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

Mr. Lang: If that is a threat that the next Labour Government, if ever elected, would interfere in every commercial decision made by every company in this country, I am sure that the electorate will take note of that and react accordingly.

Rolls-Royce, like all companies trading internationally and needing to trade competitively, has to take commercial decisions to adjust its dispositions, the activities in which it is involved, the people it employs and the places where it employs them, to ensure that it does that in the most effective and competitive way. That does not alter the fact that 4,000 employees will remain at six Rolls-Royce sites in Scotland.

On the economy in a broader sense, I hope that the hon. Gentleman is encouraged that unemployment in his constituency has already decreased by no less than 650 in the current year.

Mr. Bill Walker: Does my right hon. Friend recognise that Rolls- Royce, among others, has made massive investments outside the United Kingdom? Does he further recognise that Rolls-Royce has recently acquired Alison Engines in the United States, thus making Rolls-Royce one of the three largest, if not the largest, aero-engine manufacturers? That can only be good for Scotland, but it could all be put at risk by the nonsense of an assembly with tax-raising powers that would drive further jobs away from Scotland.

Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is right. Rolls-Royce operates in an international, competitive marketplace. Its two major competitors, General Electric and Pratt and Whitney, have had massive job cuts, including the 14,000 redundancies announced in 1993. At the same time, Boeing announced 80,000 job losses. It is an inevitable part of the developing economic situation and the competitive nature of those industries that they have to adjust the size of their work force from time to time.

Mr. Watson: The description of the economy that the Secretary of State and his friends give would not be recognised by any of the 4, 339 people in Glasgow, Central constituency who are unemployed and eligible to claim benefit. That figure constitutes 15 per cent. of the

Column 340

working population, and at a cost of £9,000 per person that means that £39 million is paid per year to keep those people in my constituency on the dole. When will the Government understand that, instead of talking about the so-called flexible labour market, which means part-time jobs and insecurity, they should start spending money on the economy, on training and on infrastructure, to get people back to work instead of keeping them on the dole?

Mr. Lang: That is what is happening. The number of people in work in Scotland has risen by 60,000 in the past decade. In the hon. Gentleman's constituency, since January 1987, unemployment has fallen by 3,400. Unemployment in Scotland is now, for the first time since records have been kept, lower than elsewhere in the United Kingdom, which in turn is more than two points lower than the European average.

Mr. Peter Bottomley: On a subject which is on a different scale from Rolls-Royce, would my right hon. Friend welcome the reputation of Lanark blue cheese? No food poisoning cases appear to have been attributed to that cheese and we must try to ensure that there is no interference in that good Scottish enterprise.

Next Section

  Home Page