HC Deb 25 July 1974 vol 877 cc1805-7
Q1. Mr. Ancram

asked the Prime Minister if he will make an official visit to the south-east of Scotland.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I hope to visit Scotland again in the autumn, Sir.

Mr. Ancram

I look forward to the Prime Minister's visit. In the meantime, will he visit some of the many thousands of people in my constituency who have to use their motor cars as a necessity of life and explain to them how, having directly increased the cost of petrol by 4p a gallon since he came to office, he and his colleagues can still claim that they are reducing the cost of living for such people?

The Prime Minister

Petrol and the tax on petrol have been covered in the debates over the last two days, including the reduction in VAT. What my right hon. Friends said in that debate was in relation to the cost of living as a whole.

Mr. John Smith

Does my right hon. Friend realise—I am sure he does—that when he comes to Scotland he will be widely welcomed for the sort of deci sions to Scotland's benefit which have been taken in the last two or three weeks, relating to the Offshore Supplies Office, the British National Oil Corporation and, above all, the recent doubling of the regional employment premium, which is worth £40 million in Scotland and is welcomed by all sides of industry?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The REP increase is welcome to industry generally in Scotland. Both that and the North Sea gas and oil proposals have been opposed by right hon. and hon. Members opposite—a fact which will no doubt be noted in due course in Scotland.

Mr. Steel

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a point of visiting the special conference of the Labour Party in Scotland to convey the views of the Labour Party Executive on devolution for Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the special conference and of the resolution passed yesterday. We hope to publish a White Paper on the whole question in the near future, covering Wales as well as Scotland.

Mr. MacCormack

Will the Prime Minister arrange to extend his visit to the islands off the coast of Scotland? If he does, will he arrange to take a large sum of money with him, as he will find it expensive? Will he influence the Secretary of State for Scotland to take some action to reduce the costs of travel there?

The Prime Minister

I never carry large sums of money when visiting either Scotland or my native county of Yorkshire. The money for Scotland has already been greatly increased by the doubling of REP.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend give the exact date of his visit in the autumn? Will he tell the Scottish people that the Labour Party, and, I think, the Tory Party, are completely opposed to any idea of separatism in Scotland as enunciated by the SNP and federalism as enunciated by the Liberal Party, both of which were rejected by Kilbrandon?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Concerning dates, an announcement has been made of one forthcoming visit. In regard to any other dates, I ask my hon. Friend to give me notice of that question. With regard to the substantive points in the latter part of the question, not only he but the Government totally reject any proposals for separatism in relation to Scotland.

Mr. Rifkind

When the Prime Minister visits Scotland, will he also visit Edinburgh—the one part of Scotland which does not have the benefit of development area status? Does the Prime Minister realise that the recent doubling of the REP by the Chancellor exaggerated the disadvantages from which Leith suffers, and will he take urgent action to remedy this anomaly, which began under the previous Labour Government?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I am aware of the strong feelings on the question of Leith, Edinburgh, and so on. Concerning this matter, as the hon. Gentleman delicately failed to imply, as it began before 1970 it must have continued between 1970 and the present time. But, of course, all of Scotland will benefit by the Government's proposals on North Sea gas and oil.