HC Deb 03 July 1968 vol 767 cc1485-6
21. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proportion of the food consumed in Scotland is produced in Scotland; and what is the estimated cost of the imported food.

Mr. Buchan

I regret that this information is not available.

Sir C. Osborne

Why it is that the Scottish Office is so incompetent that it does not know what is happening in Scotland? This is the second Answer in which the Minister has said that he does not know what is happening. If we English Members of Parliament are to understand the validity of the demand for home rule for Scotland we are surely entitled to know whether Scotland can feed itself and earn enough money to pay for its raw materials. Why cannot we have the information?

Mr. Buchan

One simple reason is that I am more concerned about making two blades of grass grow where one did before instead of having two unproductive bureaucrats where there was one before. The Question requires statistical information, and this would involve not only the Scottish Office but other Departments. The real answer is to make sure that the Scottish resources are used to produce the required agricultural and other commodities. We are broadly self-sufficient in beef, lamb, potatoes and milk, but we have to import certain other commodities, such as cereals and butter.

Dr. Miller

While I appreciate that my hon. Friend cannot give the figures, will he confirm that the rumour that haggis is being imported from Japan is completely without foundation?

Mr. Buchan

I can confirm that absolutely.

Mr. Stodart

Is not the hon. Gentleman doing his right hon. Friend less than justice? When the production figures are available from his Department together with the figures of consumption per head from the Ministry of Labour, what is the difficulty about matching the two and giving an answer of this kind?

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman, of all hon. Members, should know the answer. We have been guided to some extent by a very fine article that he wrote in the last few months. One of the reasons is that there is no control within the United Kingdom by means of customs barriers and so on, and I hope that there never will be this kind of control. Also, there is not a direct proportional intake of various food imports into Britain as a whole. There are good reasons why it is difficult to get the figures analysed without creating an army of bureaucrats to do it.

Mr. Willis

Is it not true that Scottish industry has better records in exports than English industry has? If so, why does the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) need to worry about imports of food and raw materials into Scotland? We do more than our share in paying for them.

Mr. Buchan

I am not responsible for the worries of the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne). It is true that in certain commodities we have a good export record—including, by the way, to England.