HC Deb 30 June 1976 vol 914 cc380-3
14. Mr. Russell Johnston

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will define the proposed division of responsibilities between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Assembly in regard to the operations of the Scottish Development Authority.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie)

I have nothing to add to the information given by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on 25th May.

Mr. Johnston

Is the Minister aware that the Government are heading for what can only be described as a proper "bourach" in this matter? If the Scottish Development Authority is to be controlled by the Assembly, it presumably means that its spending priorities must be controlled by the Assembly. If the Secretary of State has coincidental powers, there will inevitably be friction. Even if guidelines are established, as the Lord President has suggested, they will be Westminster guidelines and will probably exacerbate this friction, if nothing else.

Mr. Mackenzie

I thought that the statement by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council received a great welcome from the people of Scotland who believe that responsibility for the agency should be devolved to the Assembly. I do not at this stage see any likelihood of friction developing, as suggested by the hon. Gentleman.

Dr. Bray

Does my hon. Friend agree that the degree of independence in the operation of the agency will depend overwhelmingly upon its borrowing power and the authorisation of this by the Assembly or the Treasury? What consideration will be given to the Lay-field Report in relation to local finance generally within the time scale of the Government's decision on devolution?

Mr. Mackenzie

I do not think that my hon. Friend's question on Layfield has anything to do with the transfer of powers to the Scottish Development Agency.

Mr. Crawford

The SNP is, and always has been, in favour of the establishment of the SDA. Will the hon. Gentleman give the agency an annual budget of £3 million? The present budget is not good enough.

Mr. Mackenzie

I do not know whether this money is to come out of the oil revenues, together with the money for increases in old-age pensions and everything else. As my right hon. Friend and I have said, there is no shortage of money for projects put forward by the agency.

Mr. Fairgrieve

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that while there are many matters that can, and should, properly, totally and sensibly be devolved to the Scottish Development Agency, for the purposes of the economy and industry Britain is one integrated unit?

Mr. Mackenzie

The Lord President made it clear in his statement to the House that while we were anxious to transfer responsibility for the Scottish Development Agency to the Assembly we still wish to do this within the context of a United Kingdom. We see great advantages in that for the people of Scotland in an industrial sense. That is why we want to preserve the industrial integrity of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Buchan

In view of the points made in the Standing Committee on the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, and reiterated by the Lord President last night, in relation to a Scottish dimension in that Bill, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the proposal put forward by the SNP for a centralised bureaucratic body is rejected by the STUC, which prefers a more direct relationship between the main body and a good democratic local management in that industry?

Mr. Mackenzie

I take the point made by my hon. Friend. We are concerned that in the shipbuilding industry we should have something that is of benefit to the whole of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that he need not worry about this matter, because there will not be an Assembly, because the Bill will not get through this House?

Mr. Mackenzie

I am sure that in the days ahead—perhaps long days—we shall listen to the long speeches that we are accustomed to hearing from the hon. Gentleman. I am sure, too, that he will seek to persuade us, and we shall listen to his statements with great care and respect.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the problem is potentially worse even than indicated by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston)? If the Government's proposals in their present form are implemented, responsibility for industry in Scotland willl be divided three ways—between the Assembly, the Scottish Office and the Department of Industry. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that that is a nonsense solution for a nonsense problem, and that the most appropriate action for the Government to take is to reconsider their whole approach to industrial matters as they affect Scotland?

Mr. Mackenzie

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the statements that have been made from both sides of the House over many years, he would have appreciated that there is an anxiety to give the people of Scotland more say in their own affairs in an industrial sense, and that is something we have done and are continuing to do.