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Public Expenditure

3. Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much public money per capita is spent on grants and all other public expenditures in Scotland; what is the percentage difference between these figures and those for Northern Ireland, Wales and England; and if he will make a statement. [773]

Mr. Michael Forsyth: The answer is £4,185, 12 per cent. less, 7 per cent. more and 21 per cent. more respectively. Scotland gets a good deal from the Union.

Mr. Greenway: Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is remarkable that Scotland does so much better on public funding than England and Wales? Is it not naive of the Labour and Liberal parties to expect that high funding to continue, to expect to be allowed tax-lowering and tax-raising powers and to expect Englishmen and Welshmen to pay for that?

Mr. Forsyth: I agree with my hon. Friend--as the public expenditure round has been completed, it is safe for me to do so. I am not sure whether many people down here realise that Opposition Members are going around Scotland arguing that Members of a Westminster Parliament would vote for more money for a Scottish Parliament than they would vote for their own constituencies, and that a Scottish Parliament could use its powers under a tartan tax to lower taxation to less than in England. It is simply not credible, and it provides no basis on which to have a stable relationship within the Union. It is laughable in terms of its prospects, and it would be deeply damaging to Scotland's economic interests and public services.

Dr. Godman: What about the illegal acquisition of grants? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the £600,000 paid to Tate and Lyle in regional selective assistance grants was obtained illegally under European Union law? Was it a case of collusion by Scottish Office officials in these transactions, or--more probably--were they acting in a state of what might be called justifiable ignorance? What is the right hon. Gentleman doing to ensure that the money is repaid to the Treasury or, better still, given to Inverclyde district council, which will have to pick up the pieces?

Mr. Forsyth: If the hon. Gentleman has a complaint to make about regional selective assistance and how it is paid, there is a proper way to make it: he should write to me, and I shall certainly look into any complaint. He will know that we have been able to provide substantial regional selective assistance, which is one of the reasons why 3,300 new jobs are being created in Lanarkshire and why two major job-creation prospects have emerged in Scotland in recent days. He will know that we can try to replace the jobs that, sadly, were lost at Tate and Lyle in Greenock by attracting more inward investment. I hope that he will distance himself from his party's adherence to a tartan tax, which would destroy jobs and scare away inward investment.

Mr. Jenkin: Does my right hon. Friend recall Bob Boothby's maxim:

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Will he take it from me that the extra money that English Members of Parliament commit to the Scottish economy is money extremely well spent and is a price well worth paying to maintain Scotland's prosperity within a single United Kingdom currency?

Mr. Forsyth: I agree. We are one United Kingdom, but Opposition Members wish to disturb that relationship--and in a way that would be to Scotland's disadvantage.

Forth Bridge

4. Mr. Darling: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to announce the date and terms of reference of the inquiry into the second Forth road bridge crossing at Queensferry. [774]

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): My right hon. Friend and I recently met Councillors Eric Milligan and Robert Gough and other representatives from Fife and Lothian regional councils. We agreed to examine together proposals for traffic management on and around the Forth road bridge. Once these discussions have concluded, we shall be in a position to announce our proposals.

Mr. Darling: Do the Government still want to proceed with the building of a second Forth road bridge, which would devastate the constituency that the Minister seeks to represent at the next election? Have the Government changed their tack? Do they now accept that there needs to be a co-ordinated public transport strategy to deal with the transport needs of Edinburgh and south-east Scotland? Will the Minister make the Government's position clear so that we know whether they want to build this ridiculous bridge?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton I can say quite clearly that we are in favour of a medium-term strategy. We have discussed that very fully with Councillor Eric Milligan. I strongly recommend that the hon. Gentleman has discussions with him, because we have reached an agreement on the subjects on which we can go forward with consensus. The subjects cover many issues, such as the new Halbeath bridge junctions in Fife and improvements to the railways. Various electronic tolling measures have also been considered. I am pleased to see that Fife and Lothian share our view and that they will work together on this. We cannot rule out the important role that a new bridge might play in the longer term, but it is premature to proceed further at this stage.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: If there is a public inquiry into a second Forth road bridge, will the inquiry's reporter be entitled to look at Government policy and, in particular, to consider the comparative advantages of road transport or a much better system of public transport?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton I have already said that we are going ahead with a medium-term strategy, which includes very substantial improvements to public transport strategy, such as park-and-ride schemes and bus lanes. It would be premature to hold a public local inquiry; many measures must be put in place by agreement. We are not going to forget the interests of those who live in Fife and in the north of Scotland.

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Munitions Dumping (South-west Scotland)

5. Ms Roseanna Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the Scottish Office response to environmental concerns arising from munitions dumping in the south-west of Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [775]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Raymond S. Robertson): The Scottish Office contributed fully to the emergency services' excellent response in dealing with the phosphorous devices. It has provided data on materials deposited under licence in the Irish sea and recently brought forward its planned marine survey of the Beaufort's dyke area.

Ms Cunningham: As the Ministry of Defence has admitted that many of the relevant munitions dumping records have been destroyed, does the Minister agree that it is enormously important to know that there is at least one individual--former Army Captain Buchan of Peterhead-- who was directly involved in the dumping in the 1940s? Will he outline what arrangements the Scottish Office is making to interview Mr. Buchan to establish the extent of his direct information and to establish whether there are others in his position? If such arrangements are not being made, will he explain why not?

Mr. Robertson: It is unfortunate for the hon. Lady's understanding of the issue that neither she nor any of her hon. Friends were present in the Chamber when we last debated this issue last Wednesday. The Ministry of Defence's advice is that any munitions on the sea bed are potentially dangerous and should be left undisturbed. It will be for the relevant Government Departments to consider the appropriate action if the survey detects significant quantities of munitions outwith the designated dump site. I am sure that the hon. Lady will be the first to agree that we should wait until we have the results of the survey that is being undertaken before we reach any conclusions and before any Department decides what it should do.

Mr. Donohoe: The Minister may be aware that a public inquiry has been held on the overland route of the electrical interconnector in Scotland and Northern Ireland. What has not been covered by any public inquiry is its route under the sea. Given the latest concerns in relation to the laying of British Gas's pipeline, does the Minister think that it is now time for a public inquiry about its route under the sea?

Mr. Robertson: There is no hard evidence to substantiate any of the claims that the laying of the gas pipeline was responsible for the devices arriving on the beach: there is circumstantial evidence, but no hard evidence. We must wait until we have the results of the survey that is being undertaken. We have said--and I repeat to the House--that the results of the survey will be published in full when we have them.

Mrs. Ray Michie: In that connection, which Department will be responsible if compensation has to be paid to somebody who was injured by one of the phosphorous devices that washed up on the beaches around the west coast of Scotland? Would it be the Scottish Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Defence or, indeed, British Gas?

Mr. Robertson: I know that the hon. Lady has pursued the issue with great vigilance because one of her

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constituents has been injured--the only person to be injured. I understand from the Department and others that he is making good progress and we wish him well. Compensation is still being discussed and once it has been finalised I shall write to her.

Mr. Beggs: The Minister will be aware that phosphorous incendiary devices have also been washed up on the east and north Antrim coast. May I have an assurance that the survey will be thorough and that it will examine the sea bed between the south-west Scottish coast and the east coast of Northern Ireland to protect the workers to whom the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe) referred, who are involved in laying the gas pipeline and who, I hope, will be involved with the interconnector when a favourable decision is made?

Mr. Robertson: I assure the hon. Gentleman that site scar sonar and other underwater television studies are being undertaken. Sea bed sediment samples will be taken by grab-sampling equipment. The Department will be fully involved with the other relevant Departments once the results of the survey are known.

Mrs. Liddell: As the Prime Minister has now acknowledged that the Government have got it wrong about the government of Scotland and are out of touch with Scottish public opinion, will Ministers recant the bluff and evasion that we have had on munitions dumping, and which we just heard from the Dispatch Box, and extend the technical capability of the survey and the areas to be covered by it to include all those where such dumping has taken place? May we also have an exact answer as to what the Government intend to do to protect public safety?

Mr. Robertson: I welcome the hon. Lady to the Dispatch Box: like me, she is a new kid on the block. I will write to her and answer her questions, if she can satisfy me about what she means by bluff and evasion. There has been no bluff, and no evasion.

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