HC Deb 09 December 1964 vol 703 cc1523-5
6. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what will be the terms of reference of the proposed Scottish Planning Board; how many members will serve on the Board; and what is the estimated annual cost of administering the Board.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. George Willis)

The Board will, under my right hon. Friend's general direction, co-ordinate the relevant work of the Government Departments concerned in the formulation and execution of plans for regional development in Scotland. Its chairman will be an officer of the Scottish Office and its members will be drawn from the various Departments concerned. It may not be possible for the annual costs of administering it to be separately identified in the expenditure of the various Departments.

Mr. Taylor

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask him whether he will not agree that, while this work of the Scottish Planning Board has been promoted with some enthusiasm for many years by hon. and right hon. Members opposite, the people of Scotland still, even after his reply, have no clear idea as to precisely what the Board is to do? Would he state once for all whether the Board will have any executive powers, because if it does not have executive powers it will merely be a talking shop of well-meaning people clogging up the administrative machinery in Scotland?

Mr. Willis

Yes, it will. I think probably the best thing would be for the hon. Gentleman to await the announcement which is to be made by the First Secretary of State within the next day or two concerning these boards.

Mr. Noble

While being only too delighted to await the statement, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to tell me whether there is any difference between the answer he has given on this and what the Scottish Development Group has in fact been doing for the last two years?

Mr. Willis

The important difference will, of course, be that this will be a much better equipped group to deal with the question of economic planning. In other words, we intend to give it some economic content.

The Earl of Dalkeith

While, no doubt, nobody would deny the need for planning, can the hon. Gentleman say whether he is having any effective discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to whether the necessary money will be made available for implementing these plans?

Mr. Willis

I think the hon. Gentleman had better wait till the announcement is made by the First Secretary.

Mr. Woodburn

Is my right hon. Friend keeping in mind the necessity of not waiting till complete plans are ready before action is taken, so that where it is clear that certain money can be made available and a plan is already in existence, as, for instance, that for the Great Glen, and it can be seen to fit in with the ultimate plan, action can be taken on each part as it becomes possible?

Mr. Willis

This will in fact be done. Work which is to be done and can be seen to be of a kind which will fit into the plan will in fact be proceeded with.