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Oral Answers to Questions


Scottish Homes

1. Mr. Michael J. Martin: To ask the Secretaryof State for Scotland the board of Scottish Homes willnext meet to discuss the transfer of Scottish Homes property.     [29367]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang): The board of Scottish Homes meets regularly to discuss a range of issues, including the transfer of its housing stock. It will next meet on 17 July 1995.

Mr. Martin: May I inform the Secretary of State that Scottish Homes intends to invite every housing association in my area to tender for the transfer of its property, including an organisation called Gemini which Scottish Homes itself created? The twist in the story is that Mr. Mackinlay intends to get an opinion poll company to find out which housing association is the most popular, and the most popular housing association will then go on to the ballot paper. Does the Secretary of State agree that on that basis his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would not get on to any ballot paper, as he is not doing too well in the opinion polls?

Mr. Lang: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his close interest in matters affecting the Conservative party. With regard to the Scottish Homes proposals, the hon. Gentleman will agree that there is a considerable advantage in seeking diversification in housing tenure in Scotland, which has not only created more choice and alternatives for occupants but has released substantial resources to be reinvested in housing in Scotland.

Mr. John Marshall: Does my right hon. Friend agree that most tenants will welcome the transfer, but that no tenant in Monklands would welcome the transfer of any home from Scottish Homes to Monklands district council, which is corrupt, incompetent, dishonest and racist?

Mr. Lang: I can reassure my hon. Friend that, so far as the transfer of housing is concerned, 25 succesful ballots have taken place, involving 13,000 homes, in which the tenants have voted by a clear majority to transfer.

Mr. McAllion: Will Scottish Homes properties be transferred in the future under a scheme similar to the one announced yesterday for England and Wales which gives grant assistance to housing association tenants to purchase their own homes? If so, will the Secretary of State explain how that will benefit the two thirds of housing association tenants in Scotland who have state benefit as their principal source of income and the 75 per cent. of tenants who need housing benefit to help pay housing association rents?

Is it not time that the Government listened to the advice given to them yesterday by an archbishop to stop loading the dice in favour of the one form of housing tenure that they prefer and to get back to meeting the real housing need in this country by building housing at affordable rents for the hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens

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who are either homeless or trapped on housing waiting lists and for whom the right to buy is about as relevant as the right to stay at the Ritz hotel in London?

Mr. Lang: That reveals the old, atavistic attitudes of the Labour party to housing. There is a huge demand to buy council houses in Scotland. It is a right that we gave to council tenants. We fought the measure through against the sustained opposition of the Labour party--opposition which continues in some district councils. Private ownership in Scotland has now risen to approaching 60 per cent. Some 300,000 tenants have been given the opportunity by a Conservative Government to buy their homes. Clearly, the Labour party is out of touch on housing.

Respite Care

2. Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received anent the provision of respite care for those citizens with learning disabilities and their families.     [29368]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): I am not aware of any recent representations regarding the provision of respite care specifically for people with learning disabilities.

Dr. Godman: Will carers and those for whom they care ever get a fair crack of the whip from this Government? Is it likely that the Minister and his equally recalcitrant officials will ever implement the recommendations contained in the report commissioned by the Scottish Office, "Patchwork Quilt"? Is it not necessary for carers and those for whom they care that the recommendations in the report be implemented as soon as possible?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We believe that priority should be given to carers to enable vulnerable people, including those with learning disabilities, to live in the community. We have provided an additional £2.1 million to develop respite services. The guidance that has been issued highlights several objectives, including that respite care must be needs led, of high quality, accessible, strategically planned, flexible and affordable. If the hon. Gentleman believes that we are not following any of the recommendations, perhaps he will kindly let me know where he thinks that we are falling down. We insist on giving the matter high priority and shall continue to do so.

Common Agricultural Policy Advisory Group

3. Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he was consulted on the membership of the Government's CAP advisory group; and if he agreed to the membership.     [29369]

Mr. Lang: The CAP advisory group is not a Government body and has no formal standing within Government. It was created by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to advise him personally. In those circumstances, there was no reason for me to comment on the membership of the group.

Mr. Welsh: Given that the CAP advisory group will, in the Government's own words, have a significant impact on the development of policy and new thinking on the issue, why does the group not include even one person who is actively involved in Scottish agriculture? And how

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does the Secretary of State explain why the Scottish Office has been represented at only four of the 50 Council of Ministers meetings in Europe, in a minor role, and never on agriculture? Is that not a disgraceful way to treat the Scottish agricultural industry?

Mr. Lang: The hon. Gentleman clearly does not understand the concept of Scotland as a member of the United Kingdom, deriving benefits from its membership of the United Kingdom both in the European Community and at home. Scottish Office officials are fully involved in the CAP advisory group and fully aware of what is going on. They advise Scottish Office Ministers as appropriate. The group has no responsibilities for policy- making, which remains entirely a matter for Ministers.

Housing Transfers

5. Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will place in the Library copies of the draft contracts and associated agreements seeking to transfer the ownership of all local authority housing stock from Berwickshire district council to Berwickshire housing association; and if he will make a statement.     [29372]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I understand that the agreement to transfer Berwickshire district council's housing stock is currently the subject of negotiations between the council and Berwickshire housing association. Consequently, it would not be appropriate to place a copy in the Library.

Mr. Kirkwood: Does the Minister accept that one of Berwickshire district council's principal justifications for the transfer was that it would deny future generations of housing association tenants access to the right to purchase their properties, thereby preserving the district council's stock in the social rented sector? Given that the change in Government policy announced by the Secretary of State for the Environment at the Dispatch Box yesterday potentially frustrates that aim, will the Minister now publish the completed draft contracts that are about to be considered and allow a proper period of public consultation and debate before the Secretary of State for Scotland begins to consider authorising the transfer? Otherwise, the implications for prospective tenants of Berwickshire housing association properties cannot properly be assessed.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We are currently working out with Scottish Homes a scheme to enable housing association tenants to buy their homes on a voluntary basis. The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations will be consulted in due course and it will be for Berwickshire housing association to consider whether it wishes to participate in such a scheme.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to make the documents available in the Library. As Scottish Office Ministers are not a party to the contract, it is not appropriate for them to place the documents in the Library; it is for Berwickshire district council and Berwickshire housing association to consider whether to make the terms of the transfer agreement publicly available.

Mr. Kirkwood: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Due to the unsatisfactory nature of the answer that I have received from the Minister, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

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Under-age Drinking

6. Mr. Gallie: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to curb the consumption of alcohol by those under the age of 18 years.     [29373]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Kynoch): The Government strengthened the existing law against under-age drinking by the introduction, in 1990, of a statutory embargo on unsupervised sales by those under 18 in off-licence or wholesale premises. Changes have been made to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 to facilitate the prosecution of offences involving the sale of alcohol from off-sales to under-age persons. Much of the work of the Health Education Board for Scotland focuses on the young drinker and several initiatives, bearing particularly on young people, are under way or planned during 1995-96.

Mr. Gallie: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. While it is an offence for young people to buy alcohol, for others to buy it for them, and for youngsters to procure it in any way, it is not an offence for young people to drink alcohol. Should not my hon. Friend deal with that problem?

Mr. Kynoch: I am aware of the significant representations that my hon. Friend has made on this issue on numerous occasions. He is to be commended for treating this subject so seriously. He is well aware of our view, which is that byelaws can prohibit the consumption of alcohol. Those have been successfully introduced in parts of Dundee, Motherwell and East Kilbride, but we have no plans to introduce a general offence focusing on drinking by young people under the age of 18 in public places.

Mr. Ernie Ross: The Minister is trying to suggest that the Government have been assisting in dealing with that problem. The pilot schemes in Dundee, Motherwell and Ettrick and Lauderdale took place from 1990 to 1993. Subsequently, Dundee district council asked the Secretary of State to allow it to promote byelaws banning the drinking of alcohol throughout the city, but the Scottish Office refused to support it. The council then put specific proposals to allow it to introduce byelaws that would ban youths under the age of 18 from drinking alcohol anywhere in the city, and the Scottish Office still refuses to support it. When will Ministers get off their backsides and do something?

Mr. Kynoch: We believe that byelaws can be introduced to prevent drinking in public places where nuisance is a problem. We recognise that alcohol misuse is one of the eight priority areas for action identified in the 1991 national policy statement, "Health Education in Scotland". A target has been set to achieve by the year 2000 a reduction of more than 20 per cent. over 1986 levels in the proportion of population who exceed the recommended sensible limits--the hon. Gentleman may disagree with these--of 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women. We believe that education is the best way forward. Although byelaws can be introduced, it is up to local district councils to decide whether they are appropriate.

Mr. Bill Walker: My hon. Friend will be aware that both I and my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) have raised this matter on a number of occasions because of the experience in Tayside, to which the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) referred, that, when

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under-age drinkers are banned from one area, they simply go somewhere else. That problem must be resolved. The answers that I received previously were that the Government were studying the matter and keeping it under constant review. Can my hon. Friend assure me that is exactly what is happening?

Mr. Kynoch: My hon. Friend is right to say that, in common with my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), he has made significant representations on the subject. The Government are always willing to listen to argument, but at present we believe that the impracticality of introducing new legislation overcomes the situation and that the current byelaws are capable of dealing with public nuisance. We are, of course, always willing to discuss the issue and to hear further representation.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: Does the Minister accept that the problem of under-age drinking is an extremely complicated one? Current policy is to prosecute the individual or shop owner who supplies alcohol illegally to people who are under age. What consideration has been given to changing the policy so as to prosecute those under age who knowingly seek to buy alcohol for themselves?

Mr. Kynoch: The hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right to say that there is a difficulty and, indeed, we have no current proposals on that.

GP Fundholding

7. Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many general practitioner practices in Grampian are fundholders; what proportion of the total this represents; and what is the average proportion of Scottish practices which are fundholders.     [29376]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: There are currently 38 practices in Grampian in the GP fundholding scheme out of a total of 89. Approximately 43 per cent. of the practices in Grampian are GP fundholders, covering 62 per cent. of the board's population. There are currently 158 fundholding practices in Scotland out of a total of 1,078. Approximately 15 per cent. of the practices in Scotland are GP fundholders covering 23 per cent. of the population.

Mr. Bruce: I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he take it from me that a number of the practices in my constituency have become fundholders in the past two years much against their will, because they felt that they were under pressure to do to so in order to benefit their patients? What assurances can he give to medical practitioners in Huntly, who have recently been told that the minor surgical operations that they carry out at the Jubilee hospital in Huntly will not be funded in future by the health board, and that if they do not wish to perform those operations they should refer such cases to consultants, which will increase waiting lists and costs in the health service? Is that a sensible way to develop local GP surgical practices?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The health board is simply applying the rules which relate separately to the provision of minor surgery within GP practices by any GP and to certain specific arrangements which apply to GP fundholders on the use of their funds to provide certain surgical procedures. The regulations allow for a

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limited list of procedures where, subject to strict arrangements, the fundholders can use their fund to facilitate the provision of secondary services within the practice where a particular GP has expertise.

I hope that the GPs involved will continue to work with the health boards and that there will be no question of their withdrawing co-operation, which would be unfortunate. I hope that they will provide a full range of services to their patients in the area. The arrangements are voluntary and it is up to the Gps involved to decide on the extent of their participation in minor surgical work. GP fundholding offers enormous advantages, which are perceived throughout Scotland.

Drug Abuse

8. Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the resources available in Scotland to deal with drug abuse and its effects.     [29377]

Mr. Lang: Responding to drug misuse consumes a substantial amount of resources across a range of services--health, the police, social work, education, the prison service and other statutory and non-statutory agencies. Public expenditure exceeds £40 million every year.

Mr. Watson: The Secretary of State did not say whether he thought that that expenditure was effective. The catalogue of deaths of young people through drug misuse continues to increase, which suggests that it is not.

In an Adjournment debate last week, the Under-Secretary of State told me about operation Eagle, undertaken by Strathclyde police to counter drug abuse, but he did not say that that operation does not represent extra resources for that police force, as it is funded from existing resources.

I accept what the Minister said about the need for a multi-agency approach, but does he accept that young people in Scotland need to be offered some hope? In many cases those involved with drug abuse are those without hope. We do not hear of many trainee chartered accountants or student lawyers dying from drug abuse; rather it is largely those who have nothing to lose. That is the tragedy of Scotland. What hope can the Secretary of State give those young people to get them out of the drug culture?

Mr. Lang: One of the lessons of the extensive studies on those matters carried out by the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, the drug task force and others is that a simplistic analysis of any kind is probably misleading and dangerous. We all agree that the need for a strategic framework and the interrelation of a range of agencies, using substantial resources, such as I have suggested, and working in a sensible and co- operative way, offer the best way forward. I believe that we have made considerable progress in our approach to these difficult issues, and I hope that we can continue to do so on the basis of agreement across the House.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: Does my right hon. Friend agree that resources in that respect should be targeted towards education? Does he agree with the Scottish Select Committee, which said that solvent education should start at primary school, as leaving it until secondary school is often too late?

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Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That was one of the important recommendations and progress is being made on it. Drug education packages for use in primary and secondary schools to complement the Drugwise 2 materials have been commissioned and will be available shortly.

Mr. McMaster: The Secretary of State will recall that I met his noble friend the Minister of State several weeks ago to urge him to reschedule the drug Temazepam so that it would be a custodial offence to be found in possession of it without a prescription and so that there would be import and export controls on it. Since then, we have heard rumour after rumour, promise after promise, that something will be done to act on that. When will something be done?

Mr. Lang: The misuse of Temazepam is a matter of deep concern to the Government and my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council set out in May the immediate steps being taken to reduce its misuse. That is being done by the imposition of safe custody controls on manufacturers and wholesalers under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and by a proposal to ban the prescription of gel-filled capsules by GPs in the national health service. My right hon. Friend has also confirmed that we are carefully considering the recommendation of the advisory council to reschedule Temazepam under the 1971 Act.

Mrs. Fyfe: Has the Secretary of State looked at the survey reported by Greater Glasgow health board last week, which showed that nearly half of fourth-year pupils in Glasgow had tried drugs? Will he take that into consideration, together with the figures given by the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), in the debate recently with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson), when he referred to £24 million given to all the health boards in Scotland for drug-related work and £1.4 million given to the urban programme in Glasgow? Does the Secretary of State agree that, although £1.4 million sounds substantial, it is actually only £2 for every man, woman and child in Glasgow, which is not a lot when we consider the huge amount of work that needs to be done and the worry that exists in so many communities about the scale of the problem?

Mr. Lang: The hon. Lady is right about the £24 million content of the health board budgets in the context of drugs, but I mentioned a figure of £40 million in my original answer as being the resources available throughout a range of programmes. Glasgow has a substantial share of those resources.

The hon. Lady mentioned the urban programme, which has no fewer than 11 specific projects in hand. There is also the Glasgow drug problem service, which is busily engaged in efforts to transfer the activities of injectors to oral substitutes. A great deal of work is going on throughout the range of approaches in Glasgow, and I acknowledge that that is an aspect on which we must continue to focus our attention.

Housing Transfers

9. Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland which councils in Scotland are considering transferring or have transferred the ownership of (a) any or (b) all of their housing stock to housing associations; and if he will make a

statement.     [29378]

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Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Since 1989, 27 councils in Scotland have received consents to transfer more than 13,000 houses to the private sector, mainly to housing associations. I will have the names of the authorities concerned printed in the Official Report. A further three councils--Berwickshire, Wigtown and Nithsdale--are currently considering transferring all their stock to local housing associations.

Mr. Foulkes: Will the Minister confirm that Wigtown district council, in the Secretary of State's constituency, plans to transfer all its council housing stock to a private housing association, whose chairman is chairman of the council housing committee and whose secretary is the council's housing officer, using public money? Is that not the type of corruption that ought to be investigated, if not by Professor Black, certainly by the district auditor?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the councils are independent of the Government. Whatever proposals are made will eventually have to come before the Secretary of State for approval, but the first and most important hurdle is for the tenants themselves to vote. If a majority vote against the proposal, that will kill it stone dead. The advantages for tenants, including those in the 13,000 houses mentioned, include a lower rent path, accelerated investment in their housing and increased scope for tenant involvement in housing management. There has also been a greater benefit for the public sector because it has led to reinvestment in additional social housing. As I have said, the matter will come before the Secretary of State in due course and he will look at it with complete objectivity.

Following is the information:

Councils which, since January 1989, have been granted consents under section 12(7) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, to transfer housing to the private sector Angus district council Argyll and Butedistrict council Banff and Buchan district council Clydebank district council Clydesdale districtcouncil Cunninghame district council Dumbartondistrict council Dundee district council East Lothian district council Edinburgh district council Glasgow district council Hamilton district council Inverclyde districtcouncil Kilmarnock district council Kirkcaldydistrict council Monklands district council Motherwell district council Nithsdale district council North EastFife district council Orkney Islands council Perth and Kinross district council Renfrew district council Rossand Cromarty district council Stirling district council Strathkelvin district council Tweeddale districtcouncil West Lothian district council.

State of the Economy

10. Mr. Galloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next meet the Scottish Trades Union Council to discuss the state of the Scottish economy.     [29379]

Mr. Kynoch: My right hon. Friend meets representatives of the Scottish TUC from time to time to discuss a range of matters concerning the Scottish economy. The next meeting is being planned for July.

Mr. Galloway: I accept that the Minister's own employment prospects depend entirely on the only kind of elections that Conservative Members enjoy

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participating in--those in which all the voters are

Conservatives--although even in that election the prospects are a little uncertain. Does he agree, however, that the only election to which hundreds of thousands of Scottish people who are unemployed and under-employed-- those who are in part-time, temporary, low-paid, low-tech, low industrial jobs--can look forward with any sense of hope is the election which cannot now be long delayed and which will chase the Minister and his motley crew out of office for good?

Mr. Kynoch: The hon. Gentleman is playing his usual game of spreading doom and gloom and has totally ignored the most recent unemployment figures, which show a further significant decrease to the lowest rate since February 1980. With regard to long-term unemployment, he may be interested to learn that the number of people who have been unemployed for more than one year decreased by 14 per cent. in the year to April.

As for part-time workers, I repeat the answer that I gave several Question Times ago: a recent survey of people who are employed part-time found that only 14 per cent. wished to be employed full-time and that the remainder worked part-time because that is what they wished to do.

Mr. Stewart: My hon. Friend will be aware that the Scottish Trades Union Council is in favour of a statutory minimum wage. Will he ask the council what wage it proposes and why the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) refuses to give a figure?

Mr. Kynoch: My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Many Scottish and British businesses would like an answer from the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and his colleagues on that. Setting a statutory minimum wage would clearly have significant effects on British industry and would probably increase unemployment levels. For an example, one has only to look at France, where there is a statutory minimum wage of about the same level as the TUC favours and where there are significantly fewer young people in work than in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Wallace: Given the Government's pursuit of a low-wage, low-skill economy in Scotland, what message of hope does the Minister have for those graduates who will be coming out of Scotland's universities in the next few weeks? What proportion of them does he expect will find jobs in the next two or three months? Given his right hon. Friend's support for one of the candidates in the Conservative party leadership election, who does he believe has the better prospect of being in a job next month--a graduate of a Scottish university or the present Secretary of State for Scotland?

Mr. Kynoch: The hon. Gentleman, as a good Liberal, may think that that is a good sound bite, and he may well think that he is being helpful, but he neglects to mention the significant successes that we announced recently in relation to inward investment in Scotland, many of which involved improved job prospects for highly qualified people, including graduates. I had the pleasure of announcing the success stories for the year ended March 1995, during which more than 97 inward-investment projects were carried out, creating more than 12, 300 new jobs or safeguarding other jobs and resulting in inward

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investment of £1.1 billion. That is exceedingly good news for the job prospects of all graduates, and particularly those in Scotland.

Mr. Gallie: Does my hon. Friend agree, in response to the remarks of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway), that he, like me, enjoyed the general elections of 1992, 1987, 1983 and 1979 and will probably enjoy the next general election? Does my hon. Friend agree also that the hon. Member for Hillhead would do better to meet the Engineering Employers Federation, which has found orders up, investment up, optimism up and, at the end of the day, employment up? Would that not be more worth while?

Mr. Kynoch: I could not agree more. My hon. Friend reads the good news, and I join him in welcoming new orders worth £35 million recently announced for British Aerospace in Prestwick for its Jetstream 41 aircraft.

Mr. Chisholm: Does the Minister realise that 153 skilled jobs are soon to go from GEC Marconi Avionics in my constituency? Will the Minister lobby the Ministry of Defence in favour of the GEC Venom helicopter, which would create more jobs in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom than the other bids, as well as costing less? Will the Minister prioritise the policy of defence diversification? Will he put pressure on the management of that cash-rich company to accept the modest demands of the work force for work sharing, redeployment, retraining and no compulsory redundancy?

Mr. Kynoch: I will ensure that we continue with policies that make certain that British business, and Scottish business in particular, is competitive. Labour policies, to which an earlier question referred, are clearly bad for Scottish business and Scottish competitiveness. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that a minimum wage or the social chapter will help companies in his constituency to win orders, I suggest that he talks to more business men, more thoroughly.

Mr. George Robertson: I fully understand why the junior Minister was asked to answer an important question on the Scottish economy this afternoon--because the Secretary of State for Scotland is spending all his time paddling around in the Westminster bloodbath, leaving open the question of who on earth is running the Scottish Office. Does the Minister not realise how offensive and repellent it is to the people of Scotland, with all the problems that they face today, to see the politicians of the party of government at each others' throats over a Tory premiership that long ago lost any credibility or authority? The people of this country and of Scotland do not want an undignified and unedifying election for a Tory Prime Minister--they want a general election and a new Government as soon as possible.

Mr. Kynoch: The hon. Gentleman made his party political point, but I find it difficult to understand how it addresses the economy of Scotland and the success stories of that economy. As I go around Scotland visiting businesses, I am met with stories of success day in, day out. The hon. Gentleman referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and asked whether we regard questions about the Scottish economy as important. We regard all questions in Scottish Question Time as important. It may have escaped the hon. Gentleman's attention that we share questions around. I am privileged

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to have the opportunity to talk about the good news, as against the hon. Gentleman, who never talks about anything good.

Local Government Finance

11. Mrs. Adams: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to discuss local government finance.     [29381]

Mr. Kynoch: My right hon. Friend and I are due to meet representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on 24 July, as part of the normal consultation on local government finance matters.

Mrs. Adams: Does the Minister recall that, in April, I tabled a number of questions asking the Scottish Office to investigate the alleged misuse of urban aid money? The reply was that it was not the job of the Scottish Office to audit or to investigate that matter. The following week, the Scottish Office sent a letter to all regional and district local authorities telling them that they were now responsible for the auditing and accounting of urban aid money. Will the Minister say who has been responsible for monitoring and auditing urban aid money for the last 20 years?

Mr. Kynoch: I have not seen the details to which the hon. Lady referred, but if she will contact me later with those details, I will look into the matter and provide a full answer.

Dr. Reid: I do not want to break up the hostile atmosphere, but may I say how much we enjoyed the Minister's two recent visits to my constituency, not least because he set the precedent of being the Conservative Minister who turned up to open factories rather than the reverse? I give him credit for some of the finance that the Government have been prepared to put into Motherwell district council. In the midst of the present hysteria, will he have the courage and integrity to reciprocate by recognising the constructive role that has been played by Motherwell district councillors and by councillors in Lanarkshire and throughout Scotland? Their commitment, energy and dedication are given for very little reward and they are a prime example of what Britain could do with more of-- a commitment to public service.

Mr. Kynoch: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman was able to turn up on the two occasions when I was in his constituency. Sometimes, when I go to open factories and new investment sites, local Members are unable to turn up and share the good news. He is absolutely right to say that much of that good news has been brought about by a partnership. I single out not just district councils which have been involved but Locate in Scotland and local enterprise companies. The local enterprise company in the hon. Gentleman's area, Lanarkshire development agency, has been remarkably successful. I hope that he will join me in giving it credit as well.

Corruption in Local Government

12. Lady Olga Maitland: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received regarding corruption in local government.     [29382]

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Mr. Lang: From time to time, I receive representations about alleged corrupt practices in local government. Most recently, of course, I received a copy of Professor Black's report on Monklands district council.

Lady Olga Maitland: I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. In the light of Professor Black's report of malpractice in Monklands and of the fact that Labour has totally failed to take care of its own affairs and put its house in order, what action will my right hon. Friend take to ensure that at long last people in Monklands will renew their faith in local government?

Mr. Lang: I have carefully considered Professor Black's report. On the basis of its contents, I have concluded that, in principle, there is now a case for initiating a statutory inquiry. It will concentrate on the allegations that the council has failed to comply with its statutory obligation under section 7 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 to appoint staff on merit. I will announce further details in due course.

Mrs. Liddell: At long last, the Government have decided to do something. For two years, the Opposition have been calling for an inquiry under section 211. It was my distinguished--

Mr. David Shaw: Labour tried to cover it up.

Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman will control himself and keep his temper because no one in the House wants it.

Mrs. Liddell: It was my distinguished predecessor, the right hon. John Smith, who first called for an inquiry under section 211. I am shocked that the Government have delayed such an inquiry for this length of time. I recall that, shortly after my by-election, the anniversary of which is this week, I met the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) who was then the Minister with responsibility for local government. That was before he fell on his pickaxe. He pointedly refused to institute an inquiry into the activities of Monklands district council. My constituents would expect nothing less from the Secretary of State for Scotland than his resignation.


Madam Speaker: Order.

Mrs. Liddell: He was elected to look after the interests--

Mr. David Shaw: This is a statement.

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