HC Deb 31 July 1974 vol 878 cc781-3
11. Mr. Fairgrieve

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will arrange for there to be a substantial cash injection into the infrastructure serving the Aberdeen area.

Mr. Millan

The main constraints in the area are shortages of skilled men and materials rather than of cash.

Mr. Fairgrieve

Will the hon. Gentleman consider whether it is common sense to spend more than £2,000 million of taxpayers' money to nationalise, for doctrinaire reasons, the United Kingdom oil industry—which no Government can run, anyway—when such money could be far better spent on the infrastructure of Aberdeen, the oil capital of Europe—on schools, roads, houses, and so on?

Mr. Millan

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's figures, but in any case this will be an extremely useful, productive and profitable investment for the taxpayers and citizens of this country, and I am very happy that the Government have decided to take these steps.

Infrastructure raises the problem not of cash but resources. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will welcome the announcement made yesterday that £6 million is to be spent on Aberdeen Airport. This is the sort of practical help that the Government are giving to the hon. Gentleman's area, and I am sorry that he looks so miserable about it.

Mr. Douglas Henderson

Does the Minister accept that the problem of a shortage of skilled labour will not be overcome in the North-East until ade- quate housing is provided? Does he also accept that there must be an acceleration in the housing programme and in the availability of resources for housing in the North-East, and will he deal sympathetically with the request from Aberdeen County Council for special assistance for Aberdeenshire, in view of the additional expenditure that it is having to lay out because of oil-related development?

Mr. Millan

I agree that we need more houses in this area. We are doing everything possible to see that the housing programme is speeded up there, but the problem is not one of cash but of resources. If the hon. Gentleman and anyone else have particular ideas about the way in which we might help, I should be willing to look at them.

As for the rate burden, we have now asked local authorities in the oil-related areas to give us information about the additional burdens that they are bearing. We are looking at that matter, and I hope that we shall shortly be able to announce proposals for helping them to bear some of that burden.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that within the next month or two the Government will produce a White Paper setting out in great detail exactly what has been done about infrastructure for oil development, so that the people of Scotland may understand that the problem is being adequately handled by the present Government?

Mr. Millan

That is an interesting suggestion. I would not guarantee a White Paper, but I promise to send my hon. Friend something that he will find very useful for his election address.

Mr. MacArthur

Will the hon. Gentleman wake up at last to the fact that the taxpayers of Britain do not want their tax or their savings to be squandered by the present Government on mad schemes of nationalisation?

Mr. Millan

That seems to be just a little away from the question of infrastructure serving the Aberdeen area.

Mr. Sproat

May I correct the Minister on that? It is not at all irrelevant. My hon. Friend pointed out that it is proposed to spend £2,000 million on the British National Oil Corporation, and that this money ought to be spent on infrastructure, particularly roads and houses, and providing a fund to help to relieve the intolerable strain being placed on local authority finances.

Mr. Millan

I have answered all these questions before. I remember that what was worrying the hon. Gentleman the last time we had Questions was the matter of improvements at Aberdeen harbour. Perhaps he will again be good enough to thank the Government for seeing that these improvements are going ahead—another example of practical help for his area.