HC Deb 10 April 1974 vol 872 cc408-10
10. Mr. McElhone

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the amount of public expenditure in Scotland for the period 1973–75, compared with the level proposed when the Estimates for 1973–74 were first published.

Mr. William Ross

At 1973 survey prices, the expenditure of the Scottish departments was forecast in Cmnd. 5178 of December 1972 at £1,635 million for 1973–74 and £1,617 million for 1974–75. Following subsequent policy changes, the figure for 1974–75 at December 1973 was £1,540 million. The estimated out-turn for 1973–74 is £1,550 million.

Mr. McElhone

The savage cuts imposed on Scottish local authorities by the last Government are making it extremely difficult for them to carry out their programmes this year. Will my right hon. Friend agree to publish the details of those cuts so that we may more readily understand that the Government will not be able to repair the damage in their first few weeks or, indeed, the first few months of office.

Mr. Ross

The facts are fairly plain and I was surprised to see the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) raising a smile because the estimated out-turn for 1973–74 shows a drop of £85 million in Scotland. For 1974–75 the original estimates have already been reduced by £77 million

The details are matters for the local authorities because once we fix the rate support grant for them it is their job to determine their own priorities in the light of the savings.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Will the right hon. Gentleman always bear in mind that the greatest scourge to the people of Scotland at present is inflation and that the greatest cause of inflation is excessive public expenditure?

Mr. Ross

Yes, indeed. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has listened to his hon. Friend urging further expenditure on us today.

Mr. Harry Ewing

I recognise the disastrous situation which the Government were left by the previous administration, but I should like my right hon. Friend to look again at allocations, particularly for 1974–75, and to take account of the needs applied by the Social Work (Scotland) Act, with particular reference to the need for an increase in places in list "D" schools which now have fewer places than in 1968? A serious situation still exists in terms of psychiatric assessment places and various associated problems.

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend will appreciate that in present circumstances it is difficult to do much about allocations for 1974–75. However, with regard to future years we must have a review of our policies and priorities

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that during the three years in office of the Conservative Government there was a major expansion in the services offered by local authorities? So far as the so-called cuts are concerned, will he restore them? More important, will he make immediate representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to relieve the burden of the Budget on local authorities, bearing in mind that a Labour treasurer of Glasgow said last week that the Budget would raise Glasgow rates considerably?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman cannot run away from the consequences of his own incompetence. With regard to local authorities, the rate support grant is the one which I found on the table when I arrived in office, and is as worked out by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon Gentleman knows that, and that we had to add to the grant, particularly for Glasgow and one of the other cities. The Opposition must face their failings in this matter, rather than blame us. The Budget is related to the economic circumstances of the country, and the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that.

Forward to