HC Deb 26 October 1977 vol 936 cc1411-2
1. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a further statement about the progress which has been made on the conversion of the Royal High School in Edinburgh for the proposed Scottish Assembly; what is the total expenditure incurred so far; and what further expenditure will be incurred before the work is completed.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)

Work is proceeding to bring the buildings to the state described in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Gourlay) on 7th April. The expenditure incurred to mid-October, including cost of purchase, was £17;31 million. The outstanding expenditure on these works is £690,000.

Mr. Gow

Do not these figures show a substantial escalation in the cost of this building? What plans do the Government have for dealing with this ghastly exercise in nonsense if we do not have a Scottish Assembly?

Mr. Ewing

The figures do not show a substantial escalation in the cost. If, in the event, the Royal High School is not required for the Assembly, this will be a matter for the Property Services Agency to consider at that time. The Government are committed to devolution, and we are confident of getting the necessary Bills on to the statute book.

Mr. Reid

Is it not true that the fact that the Bill might just squeak through the House does not necessarily mean that the Assembly will be set up? Would it not suit the Government if the Bill were stymied in another place or by a General Election? Or is it the intention of the Government to keep going until the Assembly is duly established?

Mr. Ewing

The hon. Member is looking for ghosts which clearly do not exist. We are confident that the House will approve the Bill. The people of Scotland —because we are committed to a referendum—will themselves decide whether there will be a Scottish Assembly.

Mr. Higgins

What precedent is there for expenditure of this kind on what is, after all, merely Government expectation?

Mr. Ewing

The expenditure was approved by the House by the passing of the Appropriation Act following an announcement by the Lord President on 14th April 1976. The approval of the House of Commons is as good a precedent as any for a constitutional and democratic country.

11. Mr. MacCormick

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to visit the building formerly occupied by the Royal High School.

Mr. Harry Ewing

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

Mr. MacCormick

If the Secretary of State changes his plans, might it not be an idea for him to take along the Tory spokesman on devolution? In view of the remarks made by that hon. Gentleman about the Scottish scene during the summer, he could do with visiting any school in Scotland. Might that not also help the Conservatives to make up their minds about their policy on devolution?

Mr. Ewing

I do not know to which Conservative spokesman the hon. Gentleman was referring. If he meant the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), I must say that I was extremely interested in the pronouncement made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North in North-East Scotland when he pleaded that no one could accuse him or the Conservative Party of being constructive about devolution.

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