HC Deb 21 October 1975 vol 898 cc372-411

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. Reid

Given the Scottish Assembly, the Secretary of State will not die; he will simply fade away over the years. Come 1985, I do not see the office of Secretary of State reaching its centenary; it will fade away over this intervening period.

The people of Scotland have to pay their money and take their choice. They have to decide one way or the other. Either they opt for genuine democratic control, with a distinctive Scottish economic policy and with a chance for the Scottish economy to take off or they will go on as they have in time past with poverty, deprivation and the depressed economy to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) referred.

This is a fundamental amendment. It makes the SDA accountable to the Scots people through the Scottish Assembly. It satisfies the members of the STUC and the unions, and those Labour Members who have preached the cause of the Scottish Development Agency's being responsible to the Assembly right from the start. I hope that the hon. Members for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie), South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) and Paisley will tonight stand up and be counted, because the people of Scotland are watching them.

Mr. Sproat

When the Scottish Assembly legislation comes before the House I do not suppose that I shall agree with much of what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) has to say, but even if one were in favour of an SDA controlled by a Scottish Assembly, it would be incredibly naive to propose tonight that we should preempt that Scottish Assembly legislation. Either the Scottish National Party is so naive that it offends the House, as the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson) said, or it is trying to use yet another hook on which to hang a discussion of the whole question of the Scottish Assembly, which is an abuse of the proceedings of the House.

The Scottish National Party is perpetually denying any relationship with the violent actions which have been perpetrated in Scotland—the blowing up of pipelines. The members of the SNP cannot, either in the House or elsewhere, use such violent language as "If Westminster does not give powers to the Scottish Assembly the Scottish Assembly will have to take those powers" without inciting violence of action, and they should take the responsibility for it.

Mr. Rifkind

The debate has been significant for the attempt made by the SNP Members to threaten the House and the people of Scotland as to the unconstitutional action they will support if their demands are not met. It is also significant in that, for the first time, we have heard from the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) that the SNP favours the disappearance of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The members of the SNP, for the first time, have stated that, notwithstanding the continued existence of the United Kingdom in the foreseeable future, they wish to see the post of Secretary of State for Scotland wither away. They wish to see Scotland's position within the Cabinet, as of right, disappear, irrespective of the future integration of Scotland in the United Kingdom. They do not say that that is a condition of independence.

There is no doubt that the amendment is premature. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) and other hon. Members pointed out how absurd it is at this stage, before a devolution measure is before the House, to prejudge that devolution proposal. I advise my hon. Friends, whatever their general views on devolution, not to support this absurd and premature amendment.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

I have been fascinated by the range of this debate. Here we have three wee harmless amendments, amendments that do not make very much sense. Let us consider them. Amendment No. 1 seeks to insert the word "democratic". It is sought to insert it in Clause 1(1) so as to make the subsection read: For the purpose of furthering the democratic development of Scotland's economy". What does that mean?

Amendment No. 2 seeks to insert the word "answerable". That does not mean anything legally. If the Agency is answerable to an Assembly it is democratic, and if it is answerable to the Secretary of State it is not—is that what is suggested? Let us remember that we are talking about the Agency. What confusion we are in. It is suggested that somehow the Secretary of State is undemocratic, but at the same time it is left to him to appoint the Scottish Development Agency.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) said that the amendment was a probing amendment. In fact, we dealt with the same amendment on 10th July. With all his experience and eloquence, the hon. Gentleman could not persuade anyone in the Committee to join him in voting for the amendment. However, it is now claimed to be merely a probing amendment.

Next, we are told how important a decision is now before the House. It is said that we must make the decision tonight because the meaningfulness of the Assembly depends upon it, not to mention the SDA. Of course, it was said to be merely a probing amendment. What are we talking about? We are talking about the establishment of the Scottish Development Agency. That is the purpose of the Bill, nothing else.

These are unfortunate amendments. The hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity since the proceedings in Committee to make changes to them but he has not done so. They remain poor amendments. It is suggested that we should insert into the Bill that the Agency shall be answerable to the Scottish Assembly, immediately upon establishment of that Assembly. There is no Assembly at present. We have not decided what will be the functions of the Assembly. The House of Commons must make that decision.

Mr. Crawford


Mr. Ross

No, I am not nearly finished yet. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) spoke of housing, education and other matters. We have not decided that those functions shall be transferred from the Secretary of State to the Assembly. We have not had a Bill on the subject. Indeed, we have not had a White Paper. Let the hon. Lady face the fact that she is seeking to deal in a piecemeal fashion with only one function, a function that the Secretary of State does not even have himself.

The SDA has not been established and the Bill has not yet been approved. There will be plenty of argument as to which functions should be transferred to the Assembly from the Secretary of State, but is it not right to wait until we see the White Paper before starting the argument as to whether what is proposed is right or wrong? Is it not right to deal with the functions in the round and to discuss what is right or wrong on that basis?

Let SNP Members appreciate that I am getting rather sick of hearing them say "The Scottish people will say". Are they the only interpreters of the will and wishes of the Scottish people?

It is a measure of their arrogance that rather lets them down when they speak in these terms. We all know our own areas and the ideas of our people. But I would not proclaim myself to be the sole interpreter of what the Scottish people say.

It is only fairly recently that some SNP Members have been speaking in those terms. An hon. Member referred to what happened when the Highlands and Islands Board was being set up. I felt rather amused listening to that. One member of SNP was a Tory candidate at that time and no doubt was attacking us for our policies. Talk about the inevitability of gradualism! The approach of the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire was a fairly gradual one.

This is the wrong time to talk about the functions of the Assembly. It is premature. Without going into the merits of whether it is desirable to do this when we come to deal with the functions of the Assembly, without making a decision in advance, I say that we should reject this amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 12, Noes 228.

Division No. 348.] AYES [10.12 p.m.
Bain, Mrs Margaret Reid, George Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Crawford, Douglas Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Watt, Hamish TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Welsh, Andrew Mr. Douglas Henderson and
Kilfedder, James Wigley, Dafydd Mr. George Thompson.
MacCormick, Iain
Allaun, Frank Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)
Anderson, Donald Bray, Dr Jeremy Cohen, Stanley
Archer, Peter Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Coleman, Donald
Armstrong, Ernest Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen
Ashley, Jack Buchanan, Richard Conlan, Bernard
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)
Atkinson, Norman Campbell, Ian Corbett, Robin
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Canavan, Dennis Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Bean, R. E. Cant, R. B. Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Carmichael, Neil Crawshaw, Richard
Bidwell, Sydney Carter, Ray Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony
Bishop, E. S. Carter, Ray Cryer, Bob
Blenkinsop, Arthur Cartwright, John Cunningham, G. (Islington S)
Boardman, H. Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Davidson, Arthur
Booth, Albert Clemitson, Ivor Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Richardson, Miss Jo
Deakins, Eric Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kaufman, Gerald Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Delargy, Hugh Kelley, Richard Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dempsey, James Kilroy-Silk, Robert Roderick, Caerwyn
Doig, Peter Kinnock, Neil Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Dormand. J. D. Lambie, David Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lamborn, Harry Rooker, J. W.
Dunn, James A. Lamond, James Rose, Paul B.
Dunnett, Jack Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Sandelson, Neville
Eadie, Alex Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Sedgemore, Brian
Edelman, Maurice Lipton, Marcus Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Edge, Geoff Litterick, Tom Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
English, Michael Lomas, Kenneth Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Ennals, David Loyden, Eddie Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Luard, Evan Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Sillars, James
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. McCartney, Hugh Silverman, Julius
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McElhone, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) MacFarquhar, Roderick Small, William
Flannery, Martin McGuire, Michael (Ince) Snape, Peter
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Maclennan, Robert Spearing, Nigel
Foot, Rt Hon Michael McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Spriggs, Leslie
Forrester, John McNamara, Kevin Sproat, Iain
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Madden, Max Stallard, A. W.
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'W'd) Magee, Bryan Stoddart, David
Freeson, Reginald Mallalieu, J. P. W. Stott, Roger
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Marquand, David Strang, Gavin
George, Bruce Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole) Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Gilbert, Dr John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Ginsburg, David Maynard, Miss Joan Swain, Thomas
Gould, Bryan Meacher, Michael Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Gourlay, Harry Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Graham, Ted Mikardo, Ian Tierney, Sydney
Grant, George (Morpeth) Millan, Bruce Tinn, James
Grocott, Bruce Miller, Dr M. S. (E. Kilbride) Tomlinson, John
Harper, Joseph Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Torney, Tom
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Molloy, William Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Moonman, Eric Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Hatton, Frank Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Hayman, Mrs Helene Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Watkins, David
Horam, John Moyle, Roland Watkinson, John
Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Weetch, Ken
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Weitzman, David
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Newens, Stanley Wellbeloved, James
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N) Noble, Mike White, James (Pollok)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Oakes, Gordon Whitlock, William
Hunter, Adam O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Orbach, Maurice Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Ovenden, John Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Padley, Walter Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Janner, Greville Park, George Wise, Mrs. Audrey
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Parker, John Woof, Robert
Jeger, Mrs Lena Parry, Robert Wrigglesworth, Ian
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Peart, Rt Hon Fred Young, David (Bolton E)
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford) Perry, Ernest
John, Brynmor Phipps, Dr Colin TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Johnson, James (Hull West) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Mr. James Hamilton and
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Price, William (Rugby) Mr. Laurie Pavitt.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Millan

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 13, leave out 'six' and insert 'eight'.

There was some discussion in Committee about the number of members of the Agency. I indicated then that I thought that if we wanted to change the number we should do so by increasing the minimum number, which, at six, seemed to me to be rather small. I thought that the maximum might well be 12, but I said that I would consider the minimum number. Having done so, and having taken account of the large range of functions which the Agency will carry out, we think that eight is the more appropriate minimum figure.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Grimond

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 21, after 'workers', insert: 'or representatives of small businesses, or representatives of rural industries,'.

Mr. Speaker

With this we shall take Amendment No. 17, in Clause 15, page 15, line 26, leave out subsection (5).

Mr. Grimond

Amendment No. 4 refers to subsection (4) of Clause 1, which lays down the classes of person from whom the Secretary of State is to appoint the members of the Agency. He is given wide discretion. Indeed, it appears by the latter part of the subsection that he can appoint practically anyone from every sector …which the Secretary of State considers is relevant to the…functions of the Agency. It could well be said that it is unnecessary to specify any particular class of person, but earlier the clause so specifies. It particularly mentions those who have …shown capacity in industry, banking, accounting or finance, environmental matters, local government or the representation of workers…". It seems to me, therefore, that if we are to specify, bearing in mind that in Scotland there is great need to have some people at least who are experienced in small-scale industry and in rural matters, it might be wise to include them.

I recognise that it is always difficult to know where one is to stop once one specifies people in a class of this sort, but it seems to us that, as it stands, the provision is weighted possibly in favour of those who might generally be thought to be connected with rather large-scale industry, and so on, and that we might well emphasise, therefore, that people with rural experience and who are well versed in the problems of running smaller industries, particularly in the rural areas, should be included as well.

Mr. Millan

I want to deal with with Amendment No. 17 first. I do not think that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) referred to it. It would take the Small Industries Council for Rural Areas of Scotland out of the Agency. I take it, therefore, that it is a probing amendment, and I hope that it will be withdrawn, for reasons which I shall put to the right hon. Gentleman. The work of SICRAS is very important and is work which can be carried out very appropriately through the Agency.

I take the point of Amendment No. 4. We discussed it at some length in Committee. At one point I almost offered to take out everything in reference to different backgrounds and simply give the Secretary of State carte blanche to choose the members of the Agency. I believe that on balance there was a feeling in Committee that the matters that had been mentioned were worth mentioning and that the clause would lose something if any of them were removed. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to include additional questions of this type. I can think of a number of other areas of experience that one could quite well write into the subsection. Experience of industry, accounting, finance and so on can equally apply to small businesses or rural industries as it applies to large industries in urban areas. There is nothing exclusively related to the larger urban areas in the clause, as drafted, at present.

I have already said that the Scottish Development Agency will pay attention to all areas of Scotland. I believe that the small business sector is an important part of Scotland's economy. It should be nurtured and allowed to expand. Often that can be done with comparatively small sums of Government money, but with the help of management as well as advice, experience and all the rest which a small business sometimes finds it difficult to obtain for itself. This is already well within the compass of the Agency and what we expect the Agency to do.

I can give all these assurances, but, to avoid making the subsection more elaborate, I cannot recommend that we make the amendment, because the kind of experience that it says should be specifically looked for is already covered.

Mr. Grimond

In view of the Minister's assurance that he has got the matter much in mind and will ensure that SICRAS is properly represented, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  1. Clause 2
    1. cc381-2
  2. Clause 5
    1. c383
  3. Clause 7
    1. cc383-4
  4. Clause 8
    1. c384
    2. DERELICT LAND 218 words
  5. Clause 10
    1. cc384-5
    2. POWERS OF ENTRY 116 words
  6. Clause 11
    1. cc385-9
    2. POWER TO OBTAIN INFORMATION 1,868 words, 1 division
  7. Clause 13
    1. cc389-93
    2. FINANCES OF THE AGENCY 1,542 words, 1 division
  8. Clause 15
    1. c393
  9. Clause 16
    1. cc393-4
  10. Clause 24
    1. c394
    2. INTERPRETATION 19 words
  11. Schedule 2
    1. cc394-6
  12. Schedule 4
    1. cc397-411
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