HC Deb 01 May 1973 vol 855 cc982-4
Q1. Mr. Douglas

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech made at Avie-more on 8th April 1973 by the Secretary of State for Scotland about the functions of his office represents the views of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Douglas

Would the Prime Minister care to tell the House what his right hon. Friend meant by saying that he was perhaps over-exposed north of the border? Does he think that his right hon. Friend is catering adequately for land use, with particular reference to North Sea oil developments? How does his right hon. Friend justify the appointments he has made to various public boards in Scotland and ensure that the individuals concerned do not use their public knowledge for private gain after they leave the jobs?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend was explaining to his audience in that speech the very wide responsibilities that the Secretary of State for Scotland has, at the same time making the point that certain responsibilities—particularly foreign affairs, defence and major economic matters—remain here at Westminster and are questions for the Cabinet.

As for oil and the developments in that regard, the hon. Gentleman, who has studied these matters carefully, will surely agree that the more than 4,000 jobs already gained on projects directly concerned, with another 8,900 jobs coming in the next four years, show the very rapid development that there has been in Scotland in this respect. I see no point in decrying what has already been achieved.

All public appointments are governed by the general rules. I do not think that it helps to make general allegations. If there are specific allegations, I have always instituted an immediate inquiry.

Mr. David Steel

Does the Prime Minister think that there would be a case for transferring ministerial responsibility for the regional development offices in Scotland to the Scottish Office, because Scottish Office Ministers are presumed to have a greater detailed knowledge of the economic needs of Scotland than have the itinerant missionaries from the South, with the best will in the world?

The Prime Minister

The Scottish Office has its own development department, which has always played a vital part in the planning of development in Scotland. When I was Secretary of State for Regional Development in 1963 I examined, and I examined again when I became Prime Minister, whether we should transfer the Department of Trade and Industry responsibility to the Scottish Office. I think that the general conclusion of all Governments has been that that would be only to the loss of Scotland, because the fact that the Department of Trade and Industry has the responsibility gives it a much wider area over which it can operate, to the advantage of Scotland.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

Is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is presiding over a far greater expansion and boom in the Scottish economy than his predecessor did?

The Prime Minister

That is true. One of the very important developments is the development of North-East Scotland. This will be of immense importance to the whole nation, as well as to Scotland.