HC Deb 18 January 1978 vol 942 cc470-541

Electricity. Coal. Gas. Oil exploration, development, production, transportation, depletion, safety and health. Research.'.

When the Government fought the General Election of 1974, there was advertising in the Press and there were references on television to the fact that a Scottish Assembly would mean a powerhouse Scotland. The object of the amendment is that energy industries operating in Scotland should come within the oversight of the Scottish Assembly and particularly, we hope, within the oversight of a Committee of the Assembly that will look at the energy sources and the energy industries in some detail.

The background to the amendment can best be explained by my quoting paragraphs 5 and 6 of a memorandum that has been produced by the Scottish Consumer Council, in Glasgow, dated December 1977. Paragraph 5, which is headed "Nationalised Industries", runs as follows: We note that central control of nationalised industries, an essential part of the United Kingdom economy, rests with the United Kingdom Government under the Bill although the services provided by these industries are of critical importance to the Scottish consumer. Some direct and formal influence on the operation of the nationalised industries in Scotland is called for. The White Paper stated that 'there should be informal contact … on matters of joint interest' and that industries 'should include in their reports information on recent developments and future plans for Scotland'.

The Scottish Consumer Council goes on to say, informal contacts are not enough. The Scottish consumer has a right to be consulted about future plans, not merely informed. We recommended in April 1976 that there should be an Assembly Committee specifically responsible for keeping under review the work of the nationalised fuel industries in Scotland.

The Council mentions that that is no longer possible under the Bill. It points out that Assembly Committees will be allowed to consider only devolved subjects and, therefore, that they may not be able to take more than a passing interest in the energy industries of Scotland.

The Council makes a recommendation that the energy industries or the nationalised industries in general should be a formal responsibility of the Scottish Assembly.

Further, in paragraph 6, the Scottish Consumer Council recommends that appointments to the Scottish consultative and consumer councils of nationalised industries should be made by the Secretary of State on the recommendation of the Scottish Executive.

I think that that very fairly sets out the general proposition that nationalised industries in Scotland are extremely important. They are a sizeable part of the industrial and service activity within Scotland. I suggest that it is reasonable, as a general proposition, that the Scottish Assembly, which is to be directly elected and set up to consider matters of concern to the people of Scotland and things that will affect their daily lives, should be able to consider the energy industries.

Prior to this debate, some hon. Members have thought that the main object of my exposition relates to the oil industry. Certainly that is a part of my proposition. However, I think that it would be wrong to isolate the oil industry from the other energy industries which operate in Scotland.

The first of those other energy industries is electricity. The Government have recently decided to confirm that when the energy industry is reorganised, it will be reorganised in England and Wales and that the existing structure in Scotland will not be affected. Indeed, the existing structure of the electricity industry in Scotland is that there are two electricity boards, one serving the greater mass of the population in Central and Southern Scotland—the South of Scotland Elec- tricity Board—and one serving the northern parts of the country, including my own constituency in Dundee and including the City of Aberdeen.

Both of these boards are separate by composition, but they exchange their membership and their chairmen. For a number of years now, they have been engaged in planning the electricity demand and facilities within Scotland. Indeed, there is quite a strong financial link, too, between the two bodies, although they are administratively separate. The common cord that they share is that they both come within the responsibility not of the Secretary of State for Energy but of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

How or why this has grown up is probably due to the formation of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, with its special social and industrial priorities written into the foundation statute, and because it is very natural and reasonable that this should occur.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Is it not much simpler than that? Both of these boards were in existence before there was a separate Department of Energy.

Mr. Wilson

Indeed, that may well be so, but, if I recollect aright, there was a Ministry of Fuel and Power, and the electricity industry has had a rather fascinating background, both in Scotland and in England and Wales, in the way in which the municipal undertakings and others were gradually brought within the grid system.

This is a fascinating subject in itself, but I would be straying a little far into the historical background, and away from the amendment, if I did other than confirm and corroborate the fact that the electricity industry has been run in Scotland on a distinctive basis, under the influence and supervision of a Scottish Minister. It is reasonable, therefore, that charge of the two boards should pass to the Scottish Assembly.

At Scottish Question Time this afternoon, there was an interesting exchange about the electricity industry, the possibility of future power stations and how the failure of the advanced gas-cooled reactor for Hunterston might affect the future intentions of the electricity boards. However, that, across the Floor of the House of Commons at Question Time, is not a sufficient way of taking care of industries which have thousands of employees and spend millions of pounds. It would be worthwhile, in parliamentary terms, for there to be some continuing supervision of those industries and the right to take evidence and to see that they operate within acceptable guidelines of public policy.

It could be argued that there was an occasion about 18 months ago, in connection with a small Bill which provided for subsidies for the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board in order for it to meet the costs of the supply of cheap electricity to the Invergordon smelter, when there was an opportunity to discuss the industry in greater detail.

Of course, that Invergordon programme, which affected the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and its consumers, was very closely tied to the AGR station at Hunterston, which had taken a long time to appear. But at that stage there was a £60 million deficit to be allowed for and there was the opportunity for the provision of further public finance to support the political decision which had been taken years ago to establish the smelter. Let us not go into the arguments—we did that during the passage of the Bill—but there is a great deal of money at stake.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)


Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)


Mr. Wilson

I give way to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen).

Mr. Craigen

Will the hon. Gentleman remind me whether the SNP supported that measure when it was debated in the Scottish Grand Committee?

Mr. Wilson

That is so. We did not oppose the Bill. I may be able to deal with the point that the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) wanted to raise when I say that I put down an amendment questioning the borrowing powers of the Bill, to allow a debate to take place. The amendment did not go to a vote but was withdrawn.

Mr. Buchan

May I refresh the hon. Gentleman's memory? Did not he move an amendment to cut back the amount of money that would be going for these developments that he apparently welcomes so much?'

Mr. Wilson

As I said, I put down an amendment to allow a debate. As the hon. Gentleman should know with his parliamentary experience, that is how one can achieve the object of debating the broad background of the subject of a Bill. It was a very good debate, and I found the hon. Gentleman's contribution interesting, even if I did not agree with all of it. I should be delighted to continue that debate at some time in the future, but I think that I should now deal with the proposal for the electricity industry.

There is a site at Torness with planning permission for the establishment of an SGHW reactor. The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board—although we heard from the Minister of State this afternoon that it has produced no proposals to him—is engaged in environmental consultations with the folk in the district about the possibility of a pumped storage station at Craigroyston.

The whole question of reactor choice and the cost of electricity should be under parliamentary scrutiny. Perhaps it should not be detailed scrutiny, as these are nationalised industries, but certainly if Westminster has found it necessary to establish a Committee to look into the nationalised industries—the extent of the Committee's powers is a slightly sensitive subject at present—it is desirable that there should be time to do the same for the important electricity industry in Scotland. That can be only through the Scottish Assembly because, whether we agree with the Bill or not, we all recognise that time for that sort of scrutiny is not available here.

Another part of the Scottish industry that could be devolved to the Assembly is the coal industry, through the National Coal Board. That industry supplies a substantial part of its output—about 75 per cent., I think—to the South of Scotland Electricity Board. Therefore, the electricity industry and the coal industry are inextricably bound together. The markets are the same.

It is true that for a while the Scottish coal industry had a very bad time, but other hon. Members have pointed out to me that some parts of the industry in England also suffered in the 1960s. We should not take the pessimistic view that was prevalent for a long time. In preparation for this debate I recently looked over some of the Press statements from the Department of Energy. The hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), who has taken a strong interest in the industry and is probably the only surviving Energy Minister from the beginning of this Parliament, said in a speech to the Scottish area summer school of the National Coal Board and the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shot-firers on 6th May 1977 that the reserves which had been found which were better than the existing reserves, which were easier to work, were quite substantial. He said: One of the most promising finds has been the 50 million tons of economically recoverable reserves at Musselburgh … there is enough coal there to keep a 2-million-ton-a-year pit going well into the next century. A further 1,000 million tons of technically workable coal have been proven in new Scottish fields, adding to the very substantial reserves already known. In all, Scotland has about a quarter of the United Kingdom's workable coal. The Minister also said that some development work had been taking place. Only this week we had word that the National Coal Board intends to go ahead with the Castlehill development.

Since the hon. Gentleman made that speech about 120 million tons of coal have been discovered in the South Lanark area. Therefore, we should not be too defeatist about the future of the Scottish coal industry, particularly if we look at the listed pithead price table in the EEC Commission's document General Coal Market Situation 1975 and Forecasts for 1976, which shows that in four types of coal taken over nine EEC areas Scotland's competitiveness was exceeded in "long flame nuts 1" by only South Wales and North Yorkshire; in "long flame nuts 5" by only North Yorkshire; in coking coal by only North Yorkshire; and in coke by only Belgium and North Yorkshire.

Therefore, we see that in a European context the Scottish coal industry has a part to play. It is a pity that when entry into the EEC was negotiated and renegotiated no attempt was made, apparently, to provide for markets for coal within the EEC. It is a pity not only for Scotland but for England, because these are markets that I am sure both the NCB and the NUM would be glad to have.

The coal industry, being highly labour-intensive, employs many people in Scotland. Because of that, and because it is inextricably bound up with the electricity industry, it should go to the Assembly, so that when the Assembly considers the Scottish energy industry it will be able to consider these two aspects and decide what may be the best policy for Scotland and monitor what the Scottish Executive has been thinking.

The third area that could be devolved to the Assembly under the energy classification is gas. We still have a Scottish gas organisation. At least, that is the body of which I make regular payments, although it is part of the British Gas Corporation. Until about six years ago there was a separate Scottish Gas Board. I am not suggesting that the old Scottish Gas Board was among the most efficient of the nationalised industries.

For a while during my previous occupation as a solicitor the board was frequently in trouble in the sheriff's court because of its accounting procedure and its bills to consumers. I often used to say on public platforms that one of the reasons I wished we could have self-government was to do something about the Board. However, the Government of the day decided to do something about it and converted it into a region of the British Gas Corporation. In so far as it was easy to amalgamate it with the Corporation, there would be little difficulty in disengagement. All the main services are still at Granton, Edinburgh.

It is proper that at this stage I should dispel the myth that is heard from time to time that Scotland depends on English gas. The plain truth is that supplies of gas from the English gas fields have only recently been coming to Scotland. It is about two years ago now that the conversion process took place in Dundee, and I recollect that extremely well because I was overwhelmed with a great number of constituency problems at the time the conversion process took place. But we must not forget that there could be up to five gas lines taking gas from the fields off the north coast of Scotland down to England.

Mr. Buchan

Is not the hon. Gentleman's position simply that, when England alone was offering gas, the Scottish National Party was very willing to scream that the gas was not coming quickly to Scotland, but that, now that we have gas and oil, the hon. Gentleman says that we want to keep it from the United Kingdom? What a dishonourable position he places us Scots in.

Mr. Wilson

The only dishonourable position is the attitude of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West. The gas was supplied at a price. It had to be paid for. It took a long time for the gas mains to reach Scotland, and we had to pay for town gas at a higher price during the time that the gas fields served the English Midlands and worked their way up through to Scotland. There were reasons for it, of course. But the point is that there will be very substantial supplies of gas available, and there is no reason why—talking in terms of a devolved situation here and not the independent situation that I would prefer to see—the Scottish gas board and the British Gas Corporation should not be able to reach agreement. I am sure that they will.

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

The hon. Gentleman talks about price. I hope that he will deal with the price, because that is central to the argument about oil. I hope that he will say whether an independent Scotland would want to have a minimum selling price for oil, or whether he would want the remainder of the United Kingdom to play an important part in the OPEC proceedings, which are a very effective cartel for holding up the price.

Mr. Wilson

I can deal with that. When the various Bills came before Parliament—the Oil Taxation Bill and the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill—I did not depart from the philosophy which the Government and the official Opposition adopted. There is a world price for oil, and a secondary proposition, which was not necessarily canvassed at that time, is that if a country wishes to affect its internal distribution of costs, it relates it to the duties on refined spirit—that is to say, if it wishes to reduce the price of petrol. The Americans do that. They have an internal price structure which causes all sorts of distortions. It is very complicated.

Mr. Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)

It is not as simple as the hon. Gentleman makes it sound.

Mr. Wilson

I was not suggesting that the American system was simple. It is not. But there is a world price for oil in economic terms and, if a country wishes to interfere with the price of energy, it can do it by virtue of taxation. It has been pointed out already that a large part of the economic price which is now being charged for North Sea oil—Scottish oil, as I prefer to call it—is going to the Government in the form of taxation. About 70 per cent. of the net value will be going to the Exchequer in taxation.

I am suggesting in relation to gas that there was a Scottish gas board. The gas board in Scotland deals with many thousands of consumers. The Scottish consumers' council has suggested that it would be desirable and advantageous that the Assembly should have not just consultation with the energy industry but actual oversight of it, bearing in mind the convention about the independence or quasi-independent position which nationalised industries occupy.

The fourth factor is, of course, oil. Here is a matter of very great concern to Scotland. In this amendment, we are now talking about the administration of the policies involved in exploration, development, transport, safety and health, depletion and the like. These are matters which affect many areas, especially on the east coast of Scotland, and it would be very important were these powers to be transferred to the Assembly.

The Secretary of State has a number of councils set up to advise him on the problems which may occur because of the greater exploration and development. These take in some of the devolved functions of planning, housing, schools, and industrial development to the extent that industrial development is devolved.

4.45 p.m.

Shortly after the second General Election in 1974, I recall that we dealt with the Offshore Petroleum Development (Scotland) Bill. It was proposed that there should be two yards set up at Hunterston and Portavady, and public money was spent. The Government relied upon estimates supplied by the oil industry, but many people, including SNP Members, pointed out that those estimates seemed to be inflated and that the estimates for platforms at that level, based on the number of platforms existing in Scotland, would not come to pass. That matter had to be taken up by the Public Accounts Committee only recently. But I think that it would be desirable were there to be an adequate supervision of the background of oil in Scotland. It is a matter of real interest and concern, especially this question of the depletion rate.

Mr. Craigen

The hon. Gentleman is a lawyer by profession. Would he care to comment on the difficulties that he foresees in getting an internationally agreed median line between Scotland and England as against the present accepted median line, which has largely come about as a result of administrative convenience and jurisdiction? This would be quite crucial to any accountability over the devolving or the separation of energy policy as between Scotland and England.

Mr. Wilson

I have always accepted that the median line which is stipulated in the Statutory Instrument is an adequate indication of the position. If there is any doubt about it, it can always go to arbitration. We have completed two sets of arbitrations recently. One related to the reserves in the Frigg gas field, shared between Norway and the United Kingdom. The other related to the sub-division of the areas in the English Channel. There is no difficulty about that. Even if one assumes that the first supposition is incorrect and that the 55.50N line is not applicable, there are only two very tiny fields of negligible production involved. Frankly, if we were talking in terms of an independent Scotland, the real value of the oil—

Mr. Buchan

What about Shetland?

Mr. Wilson

If the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West is concerned about Shetland, he need only study the decision about the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly. He will see that these matters are very complicated. But I am sure that the hon. Member will find a suitable answer that will solve that problem.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) calmly points out that if there are any disputes between England and Scotland over the median line they can go to arbitration. Does he accept that if his party came to power the thousands of intricate and inter-woven aspects between Scotland and England would also have to go to arbitration? There is not one aspect of the intercourse between England and Scotland that would not have to go to arbitration. Does he not think that that would be the signal for a law-lawyer's bonanza for years to come?

Mr. Wilson

I was planning to refer to the lawyers' bonanza when we deal with the question of scrutiny. I do not accept the argument of the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller). I was asked a simple question about the median line. I have attempted to reply but whether hon. Members accept that reply is another matter.

Mr. Craigen

I was not being awkward. When I prepared the report for the Western European Union just over a year ago the Foreign Office did not seem to recognise the median line between Scotland and England. The international adjudication to which reference has been made clearly will take time. We saw this in the dispute between the United Kingdom and France over the Channel Islands. The suggestion of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) would thrust Scotland headlong into uncertainty for a long time.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) has made two mistakes. First, the question of the median line between Scotland and England is de minimis. We are talking about 73,000 barrels a day which is a minuscule amount. Secondly, today's debate is about the oversight of energy policy which should go to the devolved Assembly. I am willing to develop this theme in relation to an independent, self-governing Scotland. I should be delighted to do that because it is bread and meat to me. However, under the Scotland Bill we must consider the Scottish Assembly.

I am attempting to indicate that there are certain aspects of nationalised industries and of matters that affect planning, housing and schools which are of concern to the people of Scotland and to consumers. They should be devolved, in addition to those other matters which the Government believe should be devolved.

I turn to the question of research. I have not said that nuclear research should be completely devolved. I take the view that nuclear research and energy research generally should be done on a European basis or on a wider, world basis. The costs of research are becoming so astronomical that this must be done on a wide basis. Although the contribution made by the Atomic Energy Authority and other bodies have been first class in technical terms, unfortunately this has not produced a product that is capable of being exported commercially. The last nuclear reactor to be exported from the United Kingdom was in 1959. Nevertheless, there is an interest in this matter and the Assembly should have some say in it.

I recently inspected the Lurgi process at Westfield, Fife, where I saw the British Gas Corporation in conjunction with the Energy Research and Development Administration testing American coals to see how best they could be gasified. We have an interest in renewable forms of energy because there are certain job possibilities involved in it.

These subjects should go to the Assembly. It is essential that decisions taken in these industries are monitored in Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for the electricity industry but we have little opportunity to keep in touch with what the electricity chiefs are doing. We have little opportunity of investigating them or taking evidence as part of the process of open government. The Scottish Consumers Association has said that control over these industries should go to the Assembly. This is the opportunity to add them to the Bill.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)

I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I intervene briefly, but there are one or two points about the amendment to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee. The way in which the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) moved the amendment was intriguing. I was surprised by the quiet and apparently reasonable way in which he tried to slip his arguments past the Committee. He tried to hide the fact that this is a separatist amendment. Some of his hon. Friends have not been so disarming in their approach. They have been frank and said that their proposals would involve an extension of devolution into areas which the Government have regarded as being essential to retain as one undivided responsibility in order to preserve the economic unity of the United Kingdom.

One or two things have been in the SNP propaganda for some time which should be corrected. My hon. Friends from Scottish constituencies will have noted that the proposition that the Assembly should take over responsibility for oil, gas and electricity was put in a quiet way, unlike the manner in which the proposition has been promoted in the constituencies on hoardings and on the platforms. They will have noted that the SNP is running a bogus campaign on Scottish resources. It is making a blatant appeal to the electorate to divide these resources from the United Kingdom.

Those hon. Members who served on the Committee of the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill will remember the discussion on the so-called median line. There is no median line between Scotland and England. There is a line made under an order of the Continental Shelf Act but this is purely a jurisdictional line to indicate where the jurisdiction of Scottish courts stops and the jurisdiction of English courts begins. Its purpose is to deal with legal disputes. For example, when someone has an accident on a platform, the line decides to which court that person goes. There is no median line. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) performed a service to the Committee by pointing that out. He was absolutely right and the hon. Member for Dundee, East was wrong.

The heart of the hon. Member's case was disguised by his use of words such as "scrutiny", "control" and "consumer interest" but the purpose of the amendment is to transfer legislative and executive responsibility for these matters to the Assembly. Frankly that would be a separatist step.

The United Kingdom is fortunate in its energy resources. By 1980 it will be self-sufficient in all forms of energy. We are already producing half the oil that we consume. By 1980 we shall be producing the equivalent of the amount of oil that we consume. We are already benefiting from the balance of payments advantages of that, and through the wise steps taken by the Government under the Oil Taxation Act and the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Act, with the setting up of the British National Oil Corporation, they have secured for the public interest a large share of the profits which will derive from these industries.

The industries are flourishing. There is the oil industry in particular. It would be tragic to try to divide up our energy resources or to have competing energy policies within the United Kingdom. We have such marvellous energy resources of oil, gas and coal. Coal will be the enduring asset of this country. It will be available to us 300 years from now, when oil and gas are completely depleted.

There is also the nuclear power industry, in which units from Scotland play an important part. It makes a great deal of sense to keep together on energy policy and to maximise for the United Kingdom the advantages of our assets.

Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)

Does the Minister agree that the electricity side is already an administratively devolved matter?

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Smith

No. Electricity is a decentralised matter. In Scotland the industry is under the administrative control of the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is the only aspect of any energy industry which is. There is a big difference between decentralising and devolving the legislative and executive responsibilities. We propose that electricity would remain decentralised under the control of the Secretary of State, but that it would be a matter for which the British Government and the United Kingdom Parliament remained responsible. It would seem to us foolish to put aside one section of an energy industry and treat it separately from the other parts of that industry.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East seemed to imply that there was some unfairness in the fact that natural gas distribution reached Scotland a little later than some other parts of the United Kingdom. There is a simple geographic explanation for that. All of the offshore gas which enters this country comes from the southern basin gasfields off the Norfolk coast, and 95 per cent. of all the gas used in the United Kingdom, and 90 per cent. of the gas used in Scotland, comes from the southern basin gasfields. There is no difference in the price charged when it is landed, although there are variations in tariffs throughout the United Kingdom. That is to do with other considerations than the basic price which is secured by monopoly purchasing by the British Gas Corporation under powers provided by a previous Conservative Government.

The United Kingdom's gas resources are tremendously important. Gas will come in from the northern North Sea. Imaginative steps are being taken to maximise the amount of gas which can be recovered from that area and landed on the Scottish mainland and in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). But it would make sense to treat northern North Sea gas the same as we have treated southern basin gas, which is to regard it as an asset for the whole of the United Kingdom.

I know of no one active in the coal industry in Scotland—and I represent a mining constituency—on the management side and emphatically not on the trade union side who wishes to see the responsibilities of the National Coal Board for the mining industry divided in any way. The president of the Scottish area of the NUM issued a scathing attack on the lack of interest of the SNP in the Scottish coal mining industry over its difficult years. The Government have done a great deal to secure the future of that industry in Scotland and I pay tribute to the activities of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Energy, the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), who has worked extremely hard to protect the interests of the mining industry in both Scotland and the United Kingdom. I can think of the coal-burn scheme, which gives tremendous support to the Scottish mining industry.

It would make no sense to be beguiled by the talk of the hon. Member for Dundee, East of "oversight" and "scrutiny". The amendment proposes a separatist policy towards the energy industries of the United Kingdom as between Scotland and England. That could not be done practically, and there is no economic sense in doing it. Part of the heart and structure of our proposals is that matters which affect the Scottish people directly should come within the sphere of the Scottish Assembly, but that we shall not devolve matters which impinge upon the economic unity of the United Kingdom. That is one of the most important objectives that we can sustain.

The amendment is phased in beguiling terms. I must point out to the hon. Members who have not experienced the amazing differences between the way in which propaganda on this subject is presented in the House of Commons, where it is subject to criticism and refutation, and the way in which it is crudely exploited in Scotland on the hoardings, that it would be dangerous for the Committee to accept the amendment. I warn the Committee about the way in which the amendment was presented and I invite it to reject it wholeheartedly as being totally inconsistent with devolution and the unity of the United Kingdom.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I do not want to raise again the question of the ownership of North Sea oil and gas; the subject has been constantly debated. If, however, we were to go in for the academic exercise of drawing lines in the North Sea it would be as well to bear in mind that that is a highly complicated business and that at the end of the day my constituency might come off rather well. There are real and immediate problems associated with oil.

The Minister of State touched on the question of gas and the desirability of giving it the same treatment all over Britain. I hope, however, that my constituency will gain some advantages from the gas taken off at Flotta and Sullom Voe for the generation of electricity there. That would seem a reasonable hope for Orkney and Shetland. The idea has been discussed with the local authorities and I hope that it will come about.

It is clear that oil is not a devolved subject. It remains the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government and Parliament, and that covers exploration, development, production. transportation as mentioned in the amendment. There are, however, related activities consequent on the landing of oil. As the Minister knows, the handling of these has aroused some concern in at least one of my local authorities and among some of my constituents. In outline they are afraid that although oil in general remains the responsibility of the United Kingdom, some aspects of planning concerned with the landing and handling of oil at the terminal might come under the Scottish Assembly. They fear that some of the activities of Flotta and Sullom Voe might come within that sphere. Sullom Voe will be a very large area of activity, and all sorts of things might go on there.

Oil has involved Shetland in harbour works and in the setting up of harbour authorities, airstrips, and so on. The same, to a lesser degree, will be true of Flotta, in Orkney. Oil is by no means an unmixed blessing. It lays great demands upon the smaller authorities. It creates high wages for some people and high costs for everyone, and it creates problems of various sorts. I some times wonder whether, in the unlikely event of Scotland becoming independent, and if Scotland kept hold of all the oil that is claimed, the Scottish currency would become so strong that the rest of Scotland's exporting industries would be in some difficulty.

My local authorities, in conjunction with both Conservative and Labour Governments, have made a fairly good attempt at solving the difficulties that oil brings. I speak of the arrangements made for dealing with local Bills and the arrangements that the oil companies have made which have been carried through with considerable effort by many people. Those arrangements are fairly satisfactory and they enable us to meet the problems associated with oil as well as can be reasonably expected for the foreseeable future.

We do not want those arrangements upset, which is why we would oppose any interference—if that is the right word—by the Assembly in oil matters. I am adopting not an anti-Edinburgh attitude but an attitude based upon the fact that after great difficulty we have secured these arrangements and that to have them all thrown into the melting pot once more would be disastrous. A lot of this has been done over half of the country. As the Minister said, we shall gain enormously from this great asset—oil—if it is rightly used.

There is provision in the Bill for the Secretary of State to step in on planning matters if the interests of the United Kingdom demand it. Therefore, if it appeared that interests throughout the United Kingdom demanded his intervention in planning matters concerned with the development of oil—I am glad to see that the Minister agrees—he could take action.

It is difficult to forecast the future. There are all sorts of estimates of forecasts. No one knows whether the oil will last for 20 or 50 years. No one knows what amount of oil will be obtained or what new fields will be discovered. No one knows what new pipelines will be laid. No one knows where petro-chemical industries will start up. The whole matter is in a state of flux.

In Orkney and Shetland matters are now on a fairly reasonable keel. If it were apparent that the Assembly, going outwith its powers, were interfering with future planning matters, the Secretary of State could intervene.

There are many activities which do not strictly fall within the ambit of the handling of oil. There are, for instance, roads and airstrips to be built. There is to be a big airstrip at Scatsta in the Shetlands. That will impose financial and managerial burdens on local authorities. We cannot make a special exception of roads and such like, but I hope that the Government have those matters very much in mind. There are also important fringe matters concerned with oil production.

We should make sure that any arrangements to assist in dealing with dislocation caused to industry by oil production—the need for new roads, dislocation of land use, and so forth—are met to some extent from oil revenues. We are anxious that such funds should be safeguarded.

The Minister referred to the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Act. I served on the Committee. We had discussions on problems connected with landfall, the carrying of oil over land, and so forth. All those matters may become acute.

Oil is not a devolved subject. I see that I have the Minister's agreement. The ultimate decisions on planning, if the United Kingdom is involved should remain at Westminster.

Finally, the arrangements, some of which are very complicated, made by local authorities should not be affected by devolution and should be protected by the powers reserved to the Westminster Parliament.

Mr. Buchan

As chairman of the Scottish Labour Group, I should like to say how many of us miss the presence of my late hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Small). He has enlivened our proceedings, been a good friend to many, and was honoured and respected by all. There are few men of whom it can be said "He had no enemies", but that was abundantly true of Willie Small. If lie were here, he would probably describe the speech by the hon. Member for Dundee. East (Mr. Wilson) as a "Panglossian fantasy".

It is, indeed, a Panglossian fantasy, to assume that we shall have the best of all possible worlds. The problem with the thesis continually put forward by the SNP is that it always assumes potentially good results and does not look at the reaction and the counter-effects.

The SNP does not say that if we devolve powers from the centre of decision making to Edinburgh, the powers at the centre of decision making will be lessened. Therefore, it sounds reasonable to say that more power should be given to the Scottish people to deal with coal for example. In practice, less power would be given to the Scottish people to deal with coal, for all the reasons that Scottish coalminers know, but which perhaps the laymen of Scotland do not know.

We cannot always retain full powers at the heart of decision making when we have devolved some of those powers elsewhere. I am sure that Willie Small would have seen this dream world of the SNP as a typical Panglossian fantasy.

I want to take up the reasonable tone of the hon. Member for Dundee, East. I find that the irrationality of the proposals is always in direct ratio to the reasonableness of the approach. The hon. Gentleman knows that the amendment is dishonest. It is dishonest in its formulation and in the apparent reasonableness with which he presented it.

5.15 p.m.

It is not a question of having more consumer influence on industries in Scotland. There are ways and means by which the consumer interests of Scotland can be brought to bear in any of the areas mentioned by the hon. Gentleman—electricity, gas and coal. The hon. Gentleman knows that there will be consultation on this matter, as on many others, between the Assembly and the House of Commons if devolution takes place.

The hon. Gentleman seeks to extend into this sphere in the same way as the amendments to which it was linked, on financial powers, including currency, sought to give economic power to Scotland. But economic power in Scotland alone means no economic power for us where decision making is done in the United Kingdom. That is the fallacy of the argument.

The truth is that in such a highly integrated economy—integrated not only north and south of the border, but with whole sectors of industry dependent one upon the other—this amendment, if successful, would remove from us the power to do that which we would seek to do in our own areas.

There is another great fallacy. Willie Small would have referred to the theological cargo cult. The cargo cult swept through the South Sea islands. There was the dream that in a few years or tomorrow, a mysterious boat would come from the clouds or from the seas, carrying cargo. People stopped work, ceased to till the land, and waited for the cargo to arrive. The SNP, too, suffer from a cargo cult phenomenon.

Dr. M. S. Miller

"A cargo kilt".

Mr. Buchan

A cargo kilt. The SNP believes that, with the coming of the oil, all problems will be solved. But not all problems will be solved.

I remember how the forthcoming publication of a book called "1980" was hailed in advance until that collection of essays was published. There has been very little support for that book since from the SNP because that book, written largely by sympathisers, blew a hole in their economic pretensions, particularly the solution coming from oil.

At one time the SNP said that oil would create a strong currency in Scotland. At another time, in different circles, it said that it would prefer parity with England. On the whole, the SNP argues that it will give a strong pound. The hon. Gentleman and other SNP Members have said that the Scottish pound would be worth £1.50 compared with the English pound. At the same time, they have argued for devaluation of the green pound. That would make it more difficult for our livestock producers to sell in England and Wales and prevent export, and it would hammer the consumer. The SNP is the only party in history to have succeeded in clobbering both the consumer and the farmer at the same time.

The disarming approach of the hon. Member for Dundee, East has been referred to before. When he saw the problem arising in Committee a year and a half ago, he tried to prevent himself from running into the trap. I say to him quite firmly that he was tabling an amendment not to discuss but to attack the expenditure of the electricity boards. The amendment was specifically to reduce the amount of moneys available.

I should like to recall the time at which the hon. Gentleman did that. This is why I know that it was an attacking, not a probing, amendment. We were fighting to get extra expenditure and to persuade the Government to bring forward the order for the Drax B power station.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Scotland produces about 11½ per cent. of the generating capacity of the United Kingdom? My amendment related to the Scottish situation and was in no way connected with Drax B. I should be interested to know whether, in view of the over-capacity which was then and is now produced in Scotland, the hon. Gentleman wants to go ahead with another power station in Scotland?

Mr. Buchan

I am never sure whether the SNP is terribly cunning or incredibly stupid.

Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)


Mr. Buchan

Both. At that time, the hon. Member for Dundee, East was seeking to attack expenditure by the electricity industry when there was a campaign in full swing to persuade the Government to spend more money on the heavy electrical engineering industry and to bring forward the decision on Drax B. We were concerned at that time with the need not only of a power station at Drax but of securing 5,000 jobs for the Babcock and Wilcox factory in Scotland. That is why I am not sure whether members of the SNP are terribly cunning or incredibly stupid. I suggest that was a stupid thing to do. But the hon. Gentleman did it in the seclusion of the Committee.

In Renfrewshire the SNP was pretending—I say "pretending" because the two policies were contradictory—to lead a campaign, which included a petition, in favour of Drax B. At the same time, the hon. Member for Dundee, East was moving an amendment in Committee to cut back on expenditure in the industry.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, if I had forced the amendment to a vote and it had been carried and the expenditure available to the electricity boards had been cut, it would have had no effect on Drax B, which was within another electricity generating area?

Mr. Buchan

The first point brings out the cunning and stupidity again. Fortunately, the rest of the members of the Committee were not stupid. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman was sufficiently cunning to withdraw the amendment after I had drawn this matter to his attention.

I turn now to another aspect. What kind of position would I, the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) and the workers involved in Drax B be in if, at the same time as we were campaigning for expenditure to assist us to save our industry in Scotland, the hon. Member for Dundee, East was seeking to cut back on Scottish expenditure? How could we say "Spend more in England and Wales and we will cut back and economise in Scotland" when the beneficiary was to be Scotland? It was a disgraceful, even an immoral, situation, and the hon. Gentleman should face it.

I should like to draw yet another lesson from Drax B.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

The hon. Gentleman is daft.

Mr. Buchan

I think the hon. Member for Dundee, East said that I was daft. However, I am used to the odd low-key hysteria that we get from the SNP.

As I said, I should like to draw yet another lesson from Drax B. This is a fundamental lesson. I do not refer to the immorality of the behaviour of the SNP. There is a more profound lesson to be drawn from Drax B.

The Babcock and Wilcox factory in Scotland is one of the only two factories in the United Kingdom which make boilers for power stations. In the event of the SNP succeeding and there being an independent and separate Scotland, any Scottish Minister—especially if it were the hon. Member for Dundee, East —would have to ensure that an order from a nationalised industry went to a Scottish factory. Therefore, the order for boilers would go to Backcock and Wilcox. However, by the same token, given a separate and independent England, any English Minister would have to ensure that an order for boilers for an English power station went to the English factory. The only difference would be that the English factory would fulfill demands from a population 10 times larger than that of Scotland. Therefore, Scotland's potential would be reduced to one-tenth of its present potential.

In such circumstances, Babcock and Wilcox could not possibly survive, because basically it has a single customer. We know that the company makes exports, but basically it has a single customer—the nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board.

Therefore, what the SNP is seeking in its demand for independence is, among other things, the destruction of factories such as Babcock and Wilcox. SNP supporters fail to understand that, by having economic separation and removing Scotland's influence from the centre of basic decision-making, they are harming Scotland.

Yesterday it was argued that the SNP policy on oil and economic matters was too good. It was suggested that the Scots were being selfish in wanting all the oil revenue. But that view was contradicted by others who said that the SNP policy was bad and that Scotland would suffer. There is no dichotomy. The process of action and reaction is the same. To the extent that the Scots—not the Scots; the SNP—demand that all oil resources should be for Scotland, a reaction is set up which prevents the full benefits coming to Scotland. In other words, after 15 or perhaps 20 years of the benefits from oil, Scotland will find that it no longer has the benefit of membership of the United Kingdom.

The SNP cannot have it both ways. For example, English gas comes to Scotland. The SNP has complained about its cost. However, I should point out that the cost in Scotland is the same as in England, despite the cost of getting it to Scotland. Now that Scottish gas is coming in the SNP says that it is Scotland's gas. Scotland cannot expect the benefits to continue to flow when that apparent advantage disappears. This is a matter of morality and of intelligence. I hope that the nationalists will face that situation.

Another example is coal. Oil is not merely a finite resource but a severely limited finite resource. After 10 or 15 years the rundown will begin, whatever happens. However, we know that coal will last for hundreds of years. It is true that there have been finds in Scotland. It is also true that coal production in Scotland is more expensive than in England or in Wales. The National Coal Board has quite rightly borne the additional cost of the Scottish coalmining industry. That is no disgrace to the men involved. It is a geographical and economic factor. It is right that the United Kingdom should bear the additional cost of coal production in Scotland compared with production in England. Not one English miner has demanded the bringing in of all the coal resources of England for England only and the cutting off of Scotland. As a Scot I find it shameful, when the position is reversed in relation to oil, that that demand should be made. It is stupid as well as immoral when the demand is made in respect of coal.

5.30 p.m.

My third point concerns Shetland. It may be true, as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, that this Bill is an academic exercise. We are not, however, involved in an academic exercise when seeking to understand the motivation and behaviour of the SNP. Shetland has the bulk of the oil deposits. The people there have said that they do not want to hog this oil. Unlike the SNP, they do not claim the oil as theirs. On the contrary, they say that the oil revenues should be used in the interests of all the people of the United Kingdom as of right. I wish that we could get the same degree of generosity from the SNP.

The SNP said that it would give as much autonomy to the Shetland Isles as they wished to have. That was its policy. However, when oil was discovered, the SNP changed its tune. Sometimes it is a rather nasty one. It did not change its tune in Orkney and Shetland. The SNP candidate in Orkney and Shetland never referred to "Scottish oil" but referred to "North Sea oil." The tune is being changed in the rest of Scotland.

Despite the background of an SNP conference decision and the firm commitment to try to bribe the Shetland people by an offer of full autonomy, what did the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) have to say? He said that it was doubtful whether Shetland would get any of the oil and that it would certainly not get the bulk of it because international law would prevent that. The islands having been offered full autonomy, oil is discovered. The SNP then says that it will go to international law, if necessary, to deprive the islands of those resources. Even British imperialism at its worst never agreed to give an area full autonomy and then proceeded to take away its resources. We hear talk of Unionist imperialism—this is Unionist imperialism with a vengeance.

I reject these amendments and the motivation behind them. I do not know what the conclusion of these debates will be. I hope that one result will be that we shall be able to confront the SNP with its own dishonesty, and, perhaps, encourage it to use the same reasonableness north of the border as it does in this House, so that occasionally we may hear the SNP speaking with one voice instead of with seven.

All parties have internal disagreements. When I speak in public against public expenditure cuts, I say "This is my view." When I speak in my constituency I do not say that the Labour Government are opposed to public expenditure cuts. I say "My Government are wrong." I disagree openly. What the SNP does is to go from area to area and say "This is SNP policy" according to the needs of the area. We had a prime example during the last election, concerning the proposed oil development at West Dunbartonshire. The SNP candidate there campaigned against the development on the grounds that the SNP was opposed to it. At the same time, across the river in my area, the SNP took half-page advertisements in the Greenock Telegraph which stated that the SNP was in favour of the development. These people shame Scotland with its great hard-headed tradition of democratic intellect.

Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)

I hope that we can make speedy progress with this debate, which has followed the pattern of some of our other economic debates. There are many other subjects relating to devolved matters which we ought to discuss. I welcome the early intervention of the Minister. The arguments on this amendment are fairly fundamental and straightforward. Having listened to the speech of the Minister and that by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), I want to underline one or two points.

It is right that there should be a debate on energy matters, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) for giving us this opportunity. The issue has only been touched on in other economic debates. When we talk of energy we are talking about natural resources, a factor which brings a new dimension to our debates. Oil is a non-renewable resource. This is true of all our energy sources which are based on fossil fuels. This factor shapes my attitude towards the amendment. Resources such as the land and the sea can be used to regenerate that which we need from them. This is not so with energy resources such as gas, coal and oil. These resources are not man-made but rather they are God-placed.

The fact that such resources are God-placed serves to underline the great interdependence that there is in handling such energy resources. Although we are moving into a period of self-sufficiency in energy, this will be for only a finite period. We kid ourselves if we think that, because of this so-called bonanza in oil—on which so much of the SNP philosophy is based—we need not look ahead beyond this period of self-sufficiency. We must realise that as part of Europe, and, within Europe, as part of the world, we are dealing with a non-renewable resource. This is what makes interdependence so important.

Interdependence is equally important when it comes to nuclear energy. This point was illustrated by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West, who spoke of the nuclear generator manufacturing industry. In a totally independent Scotland it would be impossible to support such an industry. We would have to co-operate with other countries, just as Great Britain has to co-operate. Indeed it is questionable whether Great Britain herself is large enough in this context. We may be able to contribute and add to the technology, but we cannot do it on our own. To suggest that we could do so makes no sense in the modern world.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

The hon. Gentleman will accept that I indicated that nuclear technology ought to be done on a much wider basis than at present. I believe that the Cabinet is now considering the importation of American technology as part of the next stage of the nuclear programme in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I accept that the hon. Gentleman acknowledged the situation, but I return to the question why we should divide what we have already when such full co-operation is needed in the technology. When we consider our resources of non-renewable fuels, it is clear that Scotland in 20 or 30 years' time may have to look to oil coming from other parts of the United Kingdom. Despite the starry picture painted of our coal resources, it is also likely that Scotland will become dependent on coal from, say, Yorkshire. I am particularly conscious of this aspect of the energy argument because under my farm passes a very large pipeline through which is pumped all the gas coming from England to Scotland. The whole situation demonstrates how integrated we are in this country.

Norway is often called in aid as a country which seems to have made a particular success, or is supposed to have done, of the development of its oil resources. It may be that in some respects it has done better than we have. For example, I think that the Norwegians may have been more aware of some of the depletion problems and have taken quicker action. But I have talked to many people in the oil industry and I find that anyone who thinks that the development of oil in Norway has been a rose-covered path is quite wrong.

The Norwegians have had to face problems of the environment, of the depletion rate, of revenue, and the rest, just as we have. It has been no easy time for Norway. The mere fact of Norway's being a small nation on its own has not made any easier the solution of the great problems of oil development. It has certainly not made it any easier than in other countries. The Norwegians may have tackled the problems in a different way, but it has not been any easier or better for them.

Dr. M. S. Miller

The Scottish National Party is always making a big thing about comparisons with Norway and how wonderful it would be if we were like Norway. The SNP lauds the fact that Norway separated from Sweden about 70 years ago, and claims it as the epitome of success. But does not the hon. Gentleman agree that if Norway had remained with Sweden its standard of living would be higher? The Swedish standard of living is higher than that of Norway.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. That example well demonstrates that a small nation on its own could well be better off in a different situation and that it does not necessarily do best when it is on its own. It illustrates my point that being on one's own does not necessarily mean that one solves all one's oil problems, for example. For that reason alone, the amendment is unsound.

5.45 p.m.

Given that energy should remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament, and given the interdependence that we have in relation to energy resources in the United Kingdom, following the establishment of the Assembly there will be more time for those representing Scotland in this House to deal with such matters. That is one of the reasons why I support devolution.

Members from Scotland have taken up a disproportionate amount of time in dealing with matters which are now to be devolved. I myself have been so busy dealing with them that I have often, regretfully, not been able to participate in discussion and action on wider issues in Parliament. We shall have much more opportunity to deal with matters that are being retained, such as energy. We shall have more time to bring a Scottish voice and influence into retained matters in this Parliament, such as energy resources and use.

Dr. M. S. Miller

If I had no other reason but to pay tribute to Willie Small, I would enter this debate. I am sure that the whole House of Commons will miss our late colleague, with his gems of classical and medical wisdom, and his puckish kind of Glasgow humour. I feel that the House is less of a mixture now that Willie Small has gone. I would like to record my appreciation of someone who was a kind and good man, a man who said no evil about anyone and about whom no evil was spoken.

We have a whole list of items in this group of amendments, all of them on matters in respect of which there is already a considerable degree of control in Scotland itself. That fact leads me to believe that the reason for putting forward the amendments has nothing to do with the desire to give more power or authority to the Scottish people through the Assembly, but rather to insist and to put the imprimatur of the SNP on its blueprint in the House of Commons for the separation of Scotland from England.

The whole argument of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) is for separation. Comment has been made about the moderate way in which he approached the subject. Moderate though the speech may have been in tone, its content was certainly anything but moderate.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

That is right.

Dr. Miller

The remarks of the hon. Member for Dundee, East bit deeply into the flesh of the SNP's desire for Scotland—complete separation. I apologise to my English colleagues for the shameless greed and selfishness of the Scottish nationalists in respect of anything that is going in the United Kingdom.

It is all right for English workers and English business men to develop their skills for the benefit of the United Kingdom as a whole and for Scotland in particular, but if Scotland is in the position possibly to reciprocate, the answer is "No. This belongs to us and no one else will get anything of it."

I am also astonished at the effrontery and the arrogant assumption of superiority on the part of the SNP. As a Scot I certainly would not claim that the Scottish people are superior to any other nation in the world. Yet, according to the Scottish nationalists, every Scottish person seems to be a superhuman individual. If we do not win the World Cup, it will perhaps be because the wicked English have clobbered or nobbled us before we get on to the field. I suspect that the selection committee has been got at, because the Scottish team finds itself in a group which might enable it to go further than perhaps it deserves.

Mr. Dalyell

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Scottish captain, Mr. Bruce Rioch, when appearing on television, speaks with a Midlands accent?

Dr. Miller

So does my hon. Friend.

Mr. Dalyell


Dr. Miller

My hon. Friend speaks with an English accent.

Mr. Crawford

Not only Bruce Rioch speaks with an English accent; so does the national treasurer of the SNP, who happens to be English.

The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. All this is very enjoyable, but we are talking about Amendment No. 467.

Dr. Miller

I am sorry, Mr. Godman Irvine. I was on the wrong track for a moment.

What I am trying to point out is the way in which SNP representatives here are, in effect, saying to the Scottish people "Let us take over and we shall solve every one of the problems that you have. There is no question about that."

The hon. Member for Dundee, East made a petty and niggling kind of objection to the fact that it took a couple of years for North Sea gas to reach his constituency. It was as if all one had to do was wave a magic wand and all the benefits of modern technology would be somehow transplanted immediately to the place where the hon. Gentleman wanted them. I am constantly annoyed at the assumptions that SNP Members make about the way in which the Scottish people will benefit from independence because of their alleged superiority over everyone else.

My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) discussed the electricity position and indicated quite clearly that for some time to come—perhaps for all time—Scotland will be more dependent upon English coal than on Scottish coal. Certainly from an economic point of view that is the situation, because of the very great difficulty of Scottish pits. I believe that "18-inch seams" is the description that is used. There are more 18-inch seams in Scottish pits than anywhere in England. The difficulty of producing coal in Scotland is enormous. But as my hon. Friend pointed out, there is no objection from the English miner, arguing that the price of coal should be equalised throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.

Oil is another question. We have already a great degree of control in Scotland. The British National Oil Corporation is situated in Scotland. As for research, the National Engineering Laboratory—which also plays its part in oil problems—is situated in East Kilbride. It plays an important role as part of the British heritage in research.

What about the oil itself? It is interesting that the hon. Member for Dundee, East calmly assumes that the rest of the world will jump to the side of Scotland if a median line is drawn and say "That is fine. There is no problem. This is yours and that belongs to England." But the book "Scotland 1980", referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West, is conveniently forgotten by the SNP. Although, as the Minister of State indicated, there is as yet no recognised marine median line, the book postulated that it could be done. One question is whether the coastline of the country is concave or convex. A line could be drawn which would go from Berwick to somewhere on the English coast in the Humber region. Another line could follow the border between Scotland and England from the Solway to Berwick and continue into the North Sea. We would have a number of oilfields on either side of that line. An important point emerges here.

The SNP has indicated in the past that it would give independence to the Shetlands. That is something which my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West also points out. If we assume that the SNP is democratic, as it says, the interesting thing is that Scotland would be left with five oilfields out of the total number of oilfields that exist at present. Five oilfields would belong to Scotland and the rest would belong both to the Shetlands and to England.

Of course, the Shetlands would be the richest part of the United Kingdom and would want to go back with England rather than be part of Scotland, as has been indicated on more than one occasion.

The proposition put by the hon. Member for Dundee, East invites the Committee to agree to a multiplication of work that has already been done and to which enormous amounts of money, time and energy have already been devoted.

That would do two things. If we agreed to the amendment, we would be asking this country again to discover the wheel. Secondly, we would be producing a recipe for chaos for many years to come.

Mr. Hamish Gray (Ross and Cromarty)

At the outset, may I associate myself with the tributes that have already been paid to the late Mr. William Small? He frequently took an interest in energy matters and it is appropriate that we should remember him at this time.

6 p.m.

When I first read this amendment I felt that it was, to some extent, sinister and cynical. Having listened to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), I am convinced that it is wholly impractical as well. I felt that it was sinister because in some respects it is a wrecking amendment. If the Committee accepted it, it would change the whole concept of the Bill.

With the exception of Members of the Scottish National Party, the first and foremost consideration of everyone in this Committee, irrespective of his or her view of devolution, is the maintenance of the economic viability of the United Kingdom. If we were to devolve the powers that have been suggested by the hon. Member in his amendment we would be contributing, as the Minister of State said, to a step towards separation. There is no doubt that this is what the SNP wants.

I do not think that the SNP wants to see the Scottish Assembly work successfully. In fact, the more unsuccessful it is the better the nationalists will like it. They would use its failure as a stamping ground for their demands for total separation. Then their claim that they see the Assembly as a step towards separation would be fulfilled. That is why it is imperative, in creating a Scottish Assembly, that the Committee should get its duties absolutely right. To go along with this amendment would be a great mistake.

I feel that the amendment is cynical because it is very doubtful that a measure such as that suggested by the hon. Member would benefit Scotland in the long term. It was interesting that he called in aid in his argument the position of the Scottish consumer. He put forward very few arguments to give any indication of how the Scottish consumer would be likely to benefit if the amendment were accepted.

We are not being presented with the creation of a special fund from which money could be voted for energy projects. We are not even being presented with a fund from oil revenues which would be at the disposal of the Assembly to spend on projects as it thought fit, not necessarily related to oil. We were given an outline of how practically the entire energy industry should be devolved to the Scottish Assembly.

I come now to the position of coal, gas, oil and electricity, and in considering electricity we cannot avoid mentioning nuclear power to which I will refer later. The Minister, in what I regard as the best hatchet job I have heard him perform for a long time, wholly demolished the case of the hon. Member for Dundee, East. There is already a considerable amount of decentralisation, as opposed to devolution, in electricity. The North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board and the South of Scotland Hydro Electric Board represent massive examples of decentralisation. These two bodies are not even subject to the reorganisation of the electricity industry which will take place shortly.

It is interesting that the hon. Member for Dundee, East should have cited the cost of the Bill related to the increased borrowing powers of the aluminium smelter at Invergordon. This project was certainly not deprived of discussion time in the House. We debated it in Committee upstairs and then again on the Floor of the House at the request of one of my hon. Friends. The debate on a Thursday afternoon resulted in a large number of Scottish Members staying on here.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I did cite that as a debate that we had on the electricity industry.

Mr. Gray

I accept that the hon. Member mentioned it. However, I thought that he was trying to argue the case for this being given over to the Scottish Assembly, but he has not made that point.

When we talk of electricity we cannot avoid the question of nuclear power. Once again the hon. Member produced a perfectly reasonable argument, to some extent against his own amendment, when he said that enormous sums of money were involved in the development of nuclear energy, and these were almost reaching the stage where countries could not approach such ventures on their own. The case of Torus and European participation in this project, is an example of this. This leads me to the belief that we should be trying to unite and have much greater resources for these purposes.

The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) made a harsh attack on the hon. Member and his party, as he has done in the past. I would not go along with that entirely. I have served on Committees with the hon. Member for Dundee, East and, although I am mainly in disagreement with him, I feel that he argues his case with conviction. I disagree entirely with the policies used by his party. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West gave one of the many instance in which the SNP speaks with many tongues.

As a great supporter of the fast breeder reactor I can give another instance of this. The SNP has cast grave doubts on the future of the fast breeder reactor in many parts of the country, yet its parliamentary candidate in Caithness and Sutherland is demanding that the first commercial fast breeder reactor should be located in that constituency. He is quite right and I agree with him, but it is a peculiar posture for a candidate to take when his own party is casting greatest possible doubts on the future of the project.

The case of Babcock and Wilcox has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West and the hon. Member for Dundee, East. Of course, this is a typical case where in fact the location of Babcock and Wilcox in Scotland is a dispersal which, requiring work to satisfy its work force, depends to an enormous degree on orders from England and other regions of the United Kingdom. Therefore it seems yet another argument against the proposal put forward by the hon. Member for Dundee, East.

On the question of gas, the Gas Act 1972 created the corporate body in the British Gas Corporation. It is only a few months since Scottish gas from the North Sea stopped coming via England. Only now that the Frigg field, a United Kingdom-Norwegian field, is coming on stream have we got coming into Scotland gas which, by any conceivable argument, can be said to be coming from Scottish waters.

The whole question of Scottish waters has been used by the Scottish National Party and has been totally misrepresented by it. Other speakers today have pointed out the folly of the argument of a median line for Scottish and English waters, because there is no such thing as a median line, and we are very much in the dark as to what constitutes Scottish waters, English waters or even Shetland waters. Therefore, considerable doubts have been cast on the estimates of Scottish reserves made by the SNP. This is typical of the attitude of the SNP. It claims that Scotland has 400 years of reserves. How on earth can those reserves be accurately determined when there is no way at this point in time of deciding exactly which waters the Nationalists claim as Scottish?

Mr. Budgen

My hon. Friend might explain the argument about there being 400 years of reserves. At what price and for what level of depletion each year? This is an assertion which has been made in vague terms, but none of us can understand it.

Mr. Gray

That is a good point and, again, casts doubt on the SNP's forecast. It has not stated what its depletion policy is. It has changed it on a number of occasions. Indeed, during the proceedings on the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill the then Minister of Energy and I challenged the SNP representative on a number of occasions. At that time the SNP's depletion policy was about half or less than half of that adopted by the Government, but as we pointed out to the hon. Gentleman that if his policy were followed through he would not create any more jobs but instead would create additional unemployment, overnight the policy was then changed. If that policy has been changed again, I am prepared to be guided by the hon. Gentleman, but there is no doubt that these estimates are vague in the extreme.

The suggestion of devolving gas powers to the Scottish Assembly would create fantastic disruption. The British Gas Corporation has entered into contracts with all the suppliers. Therefore, it would now be a mammoth task to try to unravel those agreements, and at the end of the day the people of Scotland, for whose benefit the hon. Gentleman presumably moved the amendment, will be no better off. This is a case of trying to devolve merely for the sake of devolving, without any benefit accruing to the consumer in whose interests the hon. Gentleman claims to speak.

Let me move on to consider the subject of devolving powers in respect of coal operations, which is the most ridiculous suggestion of all. The National Coal Board reports and accounts show in the trading results for mining activities in Scotland that since the year 1973–74 there has been a loss in Scottish pits of no less than £44 million. There are reasons for those losses and we need not go into them in detail, but I believe that there is a poor case for devolving that matter wholly to Scotland when the NCB, which is part of the United Kingdom set-up, has subsidised Scottish pits in the past and when there is a good developing pattern since the losses are getting fewer. In 1973–74 there was a loss of £19.2 million, and it fell in 1976–77 to a loss of only £4.7 million. Therefore, the trend is good. It is wrong to devolve these matters when the Scottish pits have been subsidised to a considerable extent in the past.

Investment in the coal industry is considerable. The hon. Member for Dundee, East served with me on the Coal Industry Bill and we debated the large sums of money to be invested in the years ahead. There is little doubt that a great deal of work has already been done in Scotland at Musselburgh and Castlehall and that a great deal more work remains to be done, of which Scotland will have its share.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to an incident in the discussions on the Coal Industry Bill when the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) took him up on a point relating to the rundown of manpower. It is rarely that I call in aid words said by the hon. Member for Bolsover, but for once in his life he was right. He pointed out on 24th March in the Standing Committee on the Coal Industry Bill that although the industry had run down manpower in Scotland over a period of time from 50,000 to 28,000 in 1976, the rundown in Derbyshire was very much higher. Therefore, it appears that the fact the SNP frequently tends to say that Scotland is always the ill-treated victim in so many issues must be countered by saying that in that instance the problem in Derby-shire was of more serious proportions.

6.15 p.m.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East has argued the case on oil in many debates. Up to the present time investment in oil has been on a United Kingdom basis. The only reason this amendment has been moved is that the SNP sees the transfer of powers in respect of oil to the Scottish Assembly as a preliminary step towards total separation. That is what the hon. Centleman and his party want. He presented his amendment in a low key, quite different from the way in which he and his political friends present their case in Scotland. When in Scotland they use their emotive antics at every available opportunity to try to inflict their point of view on the people of Scotland, whether they want to accept it or not.

The SNP's chairman, Mr. William Wolfe, believes that independence and oil are totally separate, but he forgets that the SNP has based its credibility purely on the oil finds. Before the discovery of oil the SNP at no time had more than one Member in the House. The Welsh nationalists, without a splash of oil, had 300 per cent. more Members than the Scottish nationalists had in similar circumstances. I emphasise that their credibility is based solely on oil. That may account for some of their optimistic forecasts. The seats which they won were won as a result of the oil boom.

We do not know how the hon. Member for Dundee, East sets out his case on oil. In the Committee on the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill he tabled an amendment to create another oil corporation. He wanted to set up a Scottish national oil corporation. However, we did not hear about that today, so perhaps he has changed his view yet again.

There is also considerable worry about research. The hon. Member wishes to devolve that matter, too. Research will require an enormous amount of money, and it is surely to everybody's benefit that this should be done on a United Kingdom basis, not on a solely Scottish basis. The hon. Gentleman argues in this way because he is dedicated to the break-up of the United Kingdom and the total separation of Scotland.

Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)

It is all to do with the sovereignty of the nation.

Mr. Gray

It is not a question of the sovereignty of the nation. That is a dan- gerous remark, which the hon. Gentleman makes every now and again. He is one of those peculiar SNP Members—

Mr. Richard Buchanan (Glasgow, Springburn)

They are all peculiar.

Mr. Gray

The SNP thinks that a couple of folk singers and some emotive Scottish songs are all that we need to survive in an independent Scotland. It is dangerous when the hon. Gentleman brings emotive arguments into the realistic approach that we hope the Committee will always take on these matters.

It is essential that we preserve the economic viability of the United Kingdom. Accepting the amendment would be a disastrous step against that objective and I hope that the Committee will reject the proposal.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

May I start by joining other hon. Members in paying tribute to the late Willie Small? When I first moved to London a few years ago as a new Member, I stayed for a while in the same digs as Willie and I always found his assistance and advice very valuable.

Willie had a tremendous depth of experience in local government, the trade union movement and parliamentary politics. He was one of those hon. Members who went out of his way to share with others, particularly new Members, the fruits of that experience. While I shall miss his assistance and guidance, I shall miss most of all his comradeship and friendship.

Turning to the amendment, the House should not be misled by the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). The purpose of the amendment is to enable the separatist Scottish State, which the hon. Gentleman and his separatist friends envisage, to get a lion's share of North Sea oil.

The basis of the amendment is the philosophy of greed. Indeed, the whole philosophy of nationalism is based on greed and selfishness and the idea that the distribution of wealth should depend simply on its geographic location and geological factors and happenings that took place thousands of years ago under the surface of the earth or under the ocean bed.

I do not know what other hon. Members opposite think about that, but to my hon. Friends, that philosophy is alien to everything that our movement stands for. Socialism is based on the philosophy that the distribution of wealth should not depend simply on the place of its discovery, but should be to those who are most in need, whether they are in Strathclyde, Central Scotland, the Highlands, the Lowlands, Tayside, Tyneside, Teeside, Merseyside or anywhere else in the United Kingdom where we see that people are in need.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

When the hon. Gentleman puts that proposition in his chauvinistic fashion as a little Scotlander or little Britisher, is he saying that oil money should be kept in London and not distributed elsewhere? For instance, would he give it to the Italian Government?

Mr. Canavan

There is a great need to build Socialist links between Britain and other countries. I am not thinking in terms of the Common Market, because I do not see that as a suitable agency for the distribution of wealth in a Socialist manner. In principle, I believe in building Socialist links with other countries and in sharing our energy and other resources with other needy countries. But this amendment would turn the clock back.

We have to consider the amendment and the Bill in the context of the partnership which Scotland has had with its nearest neighbour for more than 200 years. It is on the history of that partnership that we must make up our minds whether to accept or reject the amendment.

My hon. Friends and I believe in a Socialist energy policy rather than in leaving energy and the dictation of energy policy to multinational oil companies and the like. That is why we set up the British National Oil Corporation and decided to locate its headquarters, along with those of the offshore supplies office, in Glasgow. There was an understandable welcome for the location of those important energy headquarters in Scotland, but when we discussed the Bill that set up the BNOC, the hon. Member for Dundee, East, who is the SNP spokesman on energy, tried in Committee to smash the Corporation. That was the gratitude shown by the SNP for the good sense and generosity of the Government in locating the headquarters of that important new national corporation in Scotland.

The SNP tried to smash the BNOC into four bits—a Scottish national oil corporation, an English national oil corporation and, believe it or not, a Welsh national oil corporation and a Northern Ireland national oil corporation. Have hon. Members ever heard anything so stupid?

The nationalists often invite their Plaid Cymru colleagues from Wales to their meetings and, in turn, send fraternal delegates to the Welsh nationalists annual conferences and so on. Yet their concern even for fellow nationalists is so lacking and they are so chauvinistic that they are unwilling to share what they consider to be Scotland's oil even with their colleagues in Wales. That is the depth of parochialism expressed in the SNP energy policy.

After the SNP tried unsuccessfully to smash up the BNOC, the Bill returned to the Floor of the House for Third Reading. SNP Members then voted against it. They were voting for the interests of the multinational oil companies rather than for the interests of the people of Scotland, including workers in the oil industry and the consumers. That is the measure of the concern of the SNP. Its Members are more concerned with protecting the interests of multinational oil companies than with using energy resources for the good of the community and extending public ownership and control by means of the BNOC.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

The hon. Gentleman must realise that the reason all the major oil companies signed participation agreements on a "no gain, no loss" basis was that they stood to lose nothing. The whole question of participation and a Socialist energy policy was a charade which the Government had to present because they were unable to negotiate anything realistic.

Mr. Canavan

I am the first to admit that the powers of the BNOC are not perfect. It is not strong enough. But there would have been virtually no public control or public ownership and certainly no corporation at all if the majority of hon. Members had voted with the SNP Members on the Third Reading of the Bill. They voted against the Oil Corporation.

I said earlier that the thinking behind the amendment was the philosophy of greed and selfishness. It is not even based on good sense and logic. The SNP seems to think that the vast majority of the oil would necessarily be in the Scottish section of the North Sea if we had the misfortune to have a completely separate Scottish State.

6.30 p.m.

I do not believe that this proposition stands up. Many people who are unbiased in this matter have done considerable legal research into the drawing up of a median line and it is naïve and simplistic to imagine that it would simply be a line of latitude running from Berwick-upon-Tweed, for example. It would more likely be a line running up towards the North-East from Berwick-upon-Tweed, because that is the direction of the border between Scotland and England at that point. There is also the strong possibility of Orkney and Shetland opting out of a separate Scottish State if that ever came about.

We need to think, too, of the situation not so long ago, when the first drop of North Sea oil came ashore in England. I can remember the chauvinism of the SNP. It claimed in intemperate language, especially in constituencies north of the border, that the English were stealing Scotland's oil. That is the propaganda that it issued.

Apart from parochialism and greed, that allegation was not even based on fact. The first oil to be landed came from the Argyll Field. If there ever was a separation of Scotland from England, in all probability the median line that would be drawn would put the Argyll Field, or the major part of it, in English waters. So much for the invalid and nonsensical claim made by the SNP about the English stealing Scotland's oil. It is quite probable that the median line would be such, and if Orkney and Shetland opted out of a separate Scottish State it is likely that Scotland would be left with less than half of the North Sea oil discoveries that are already in existence.

A similar situation applies to gas. Ministers have said—certainly until the Frigg field started to come on stream— that about 95 per cent. of the gas consumed in Scotland comes from what would be the English sector of the North Sea.

I turn briefly to the coal industry. The hon. Member for Dundee, East said that Scotland contained about a quarter of the United Kingdom's workable coal seams. It depends upon what is meant by workable. A great deal of public investment is required of the National Coal Board to make many of the seams workable. It is a known fact that the average output per man shift in the Scottish coalfields is considerably less than the average output per man shift south of the border. Why is that? It is not because the Scottish miners work any less hard than their counterparts in England and Wales; Indeed, the probability is that they work harder.

Why is the output per man shift, on average, lower? The reason is the geological structure, the incidence of faults and the narrowness of seams in many of the Scottish pits. This is why people in the National Coal Board and, just as important if not more important, people in the National Union of Mineworkers, would have nothing to do with the stupidity of the amendment. It is clear that the amendment would lead to that which the SNP wants, namely, a completely separate Scottish coal board.

If a separate Scottish coal board had been set up in 1947, when the industry was nationalised, and if Scotland had been told to go it alone then, the likelihood is that there would now be virtually no coal industry left in Scotland. That is why spokesmen in the NUM such as Mr. Eric Clarke, the newly-appointed Scottish general secretary, and his colleagues, would utterly reject this amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) correctly pointed out the need for an integrated energy strategy combined with an integrated industrial strategy. Drax B provides a good example, involving 5,000 jobs being at stake in the boiler-making industry in Scotland, in Babcock and Wilcox. The jobs' survival depended on an English electricity generating company placing an order. That sums up the importance, in employment terms, of an integrated energy and industrial strategy on a United Kingdom basis.

The amendment would be against the long-term interests of the people of Scotland as well as the people of England and Wales. That is why I am sure that the Committee will reject it by an overwhelming majority.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)

I did not intend to intervene in the debate but the speech of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) persuaded me to do so.

The hon. Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan) referred to the hon. Gentleman's speech and his argument about the Drax B power station. It is true that although it is situate in England it will create work in Scotland for many people—Babcock and Wilcox, in the boiler-making industry. It will also be doing something that to my mind is even more important in the longer term; it will keep alive the skills and expertise not only on the shop floor but in the drawing office and design departments and in the management team. If there were a shortage of work, those skills and expertise would be dissipated and probably never recovered. We could therefore lose for ever not only jobs but the capacity of the industry. That seems to be something for which it is worth fighting.

The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West said that we required a United Kingdom policy—I agree with him—to ensure that English orders go to Scottish engineering firms. I can tell the hon. Gentleman and the Committee from personal experience that it is not always easy to get even Scottish organisations in the electricity generating industry to place their orders with Scottish firms when English or other firms are making cheaper quotations. That is the sort of conflict which even the Scottish National Party would not wish to see, but which would arise if we did not have an integrated United Kingdom energy policy.

We have had a good deal of talk about the distribution of wealth and its place of origin. The Committee should remember exactly what North Sea oil does. It provides the United Kingdom with a source of energy that is rather expensive but does not cost us anything in foreign exchange. If the saving in foreign exchange were frittered away and spent unnecessarily, it could make our inflationary situation a great deal worse. It must be used for investment for the future, to build up the industries all over the United Kingdom that need new investment against the time when the oil runs out.

Investment in the production of energy for the future requires large resources. Curiously enough, investment in production of electricity whether it is in nuclear power stations, oil-fired power stations or coal-fired power stations, is not much different, over a period, in terms of the sum required to make the same quantity of electricity. There is not a great difference in investment costs. The difference comes in the research and development costs on the nuclear side.

I suggest to the Committee that the possibilities of developing British nuclear energy depend very much on Scotland and Wales and England working together. Of course, it may be too big a burden for the whole of the United Kingdom, although I do not believe that it would be. But it would be too much for one part alone.

If we are to face the twenty-first century with any degree of confidence, we must be ready to accept the possibility that the fossil fuels that we now burn so readily could by then be too precious as raw materials to burn and will be required for other purposes.

We need a national energy policy not only for ourselves but to provide energy that we can sell to the rest of the world, as is the case now, with fast-breeder reactors. All too often this country has led the field in technological development, and then, for one foolish reason or another, has given up just before success is reached and allowed others to reap the benefit of our expertise. That, perhaps, is one of the reasons why our output is bad and our unemployment high.

I beg the Committee to reject the amendment, with an eye on the future of our children and theirs, and so that we retain the unity and strength to develop the fast-breeder reactor so as to be able not only to provide ourselves with energy but once more, as a nation, to be able to sell energy to the world and be in a position to continue by our own effort the benefits that God has given us in the North Sea.

Mr. Dalyell

Had he been with us, Willie Small would probably have been participating in the debate. Ever since he was Fred Lee's PPS at the Ministry of Fuel and Power, he had a continuing interest in energy problems, and I pay tribute to a friend.

Before I ask questions of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, perhaps I may draw to the attention of their Lordships, if it is in order, the fact that it looks as though, the guillotine falling at 9 o'clock, it is they and not the House of Commons who will have to discuss all sorts of vital matters in relation to civil aviation, colleges of agriculture, water-ways, forestry and the universities.

I wish to ask various questions of my hon. Friend the Minister of State. The first question—perhaps it is my only rhetorical question—is whether, when he listens to the kind of speech that was made by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), he thinks that here is another example of politicians—it is not only the SNP; it is many other people—who are trying to have it both ways on the issue of nuclear waste. I can only report to the House that the chairman of the SNP—who contests West Lothian—in order, I suspect, to get out of his dilemma, the uncomfortable business of having to explain what to do with nuclear waste, which raises emotions and is awkward for all of us, says that we must rely on wave power and alternative sources energy, particularly wind power.

Consider the technical facts that we have to face. In order to have the equivalent output of a modern nuclear power station, 1,000 megawatts, how many windmills does one need? The answer is that for aerodynamic reasons one has to have 30,000 windmills. I say to the chairman of the SNP or anyone else that 30,000 windmills take up at least 400 square miles of constantly wind-swept territory.

Therefore, before thinking that one can easily get out of these difficulties with conservation arguments—because nuclear waste is emotional for conservationists—and before starting to organise marches in Ayrshire or anywhere else, members of SNP should ask themselves what the same conservationists—or, for that matter, the farmers—would say to the idea of 400 square miles of the United Kingdom being taken up by the equivalent of one nuclear power station. That sort of argument does not seem credible.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is temporarily out of his place, because I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State some questions about letters that some of us have received from the Shetland Islands Council. I have received a letter from Mr. John Jamieson. I shall spare the Committee the whole letter and read only the point on page 2 that is directly apposite to our debate. The Council says, Shetland's voice on issues critical to Shetland such as fishing, agriculture, transport, or oil-related development will no longer be clearly heard; future action by the Scottish Assembly may, deliberately or inadvertently, lead to a situation arising whereby the oil development located in Shetland becomes a subject of controversy with Central Government; (such a conflict could have disasterous results for both the United Kingdom and Shetland); the degree of control achieved by Shetland over oil-related developments will be unilaterally weakened by the Scottish Assembly. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) and others went on an all-party delegation when we were invited by the Shetland Islands Council. We had understood at one stage that the council's fears were being allayed. It would seem that that is not so, and I think that this is the appropriate amendment for the Minister to comment on that.

6.45 p.m.

I return to the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, East. One of the things that he said about electricity was that time was not available in the House of Commons. Like my hon. Friend the Minister of State, I absolutely deny that. First of all, on any kind of the problems that the hon. Member was outlining, dealing with the dissatisfactions of Scottish consumers, it is possible for any Scottish Member of Parliament to go to Cathcart House. In Frank Tomb's time I always found that we were entirely welcome to go there and discuss, most promptly and at a senior level, any of these difficulties.

In terms of an Assembly, what is it precisely that we are asking. The idea that somehow or other an Assembly should supervise the South of Scotland Electricity Board seems to me to raise real questions about precisely what the function of the Assembly is to be. If the Assembly is to act as a consumers' spokesman against the SSEB, I shall want to know more about that, because I am not sure that that is the function of a subordinate Parliament.

Equally, my hon. Friend the Minister of State was quite right to point out, as was the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray), that when we needed legislative time on the issue of Invergordon, it was easily available and forthcoming. The truth of the matter is that whenever a group of Members of Parliament are sufficiently concerned about a serious subject, there are endless ways in which they can raise it fairly promptly. Therefore, that argument does not hold water.

Take the example of the coal industry. I need only echo my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). Of course Eric Clarke and others have been extremely careful to say that, as far as it affects them in the National Union of Mineworkers, they want nothing to do with the kind of idea that is put forward in the amendment.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East said that an Assembly would be able to do something about the Scottish gas board. Quite what it would be able to do was not clear, but the hon. Member said that it was very attractive, that this was the kind of thing that was being put forward in Scotland, and that would certainly be able to do something about the Scottish gas board. This means that for everyone who has a gas problem—anyone whose gas pipe or cooker is faulty—somehow or other, by some magic wand, the Assembly will do something.

The truth is nothing of the kind. I shall give way to the hon. Member for Dundee, East if he wants to interrupt me. What could be done by 150 Assemblymen in Edinburgh or a Scottish Parliament about the Scottish gas board that we, as conscientious Members of Parliament, could not do from Westminster?

Mr. Gordon Wilson

As the hon. Gentleman invites me to intervene, may I ask him this: does he accept that it would be desirable, first, that Scottish Gas should be reconstituted on a Scottish basis?

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)


Mr. Wilson

So that it can come under the control of those who represent the consumers in Scotland. The Scottish Consumer Council, which I quoted, recommended that the fuel industries should come under the Assembly's control.

Mr. Galbraith


Mr. Wilson

The council believes that that would be advantageous.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Gentleman's response is precisely what I suspected. If I misquote him, he will refute what I say, but I believe that we have elicited the interesting view that Scottish Gas should be run by a consumers' organisation. One cannot run a gas industry in that way.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I did not say that.

Mr. Dalyell

I think that the hon. Gentleman did. He can perhaps make clear on another occasion precisely what he means, but the impression is left that somehow or other it would be much better for consumers if we had that kind of Assembly. I believe that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) wishes to intervene.

Mr. Galbraith

I was only half thinking of asking the hon. Gentleman to give way. I do not know whether he recalls that in 1951 it was decided to split up the Electricity Authority and set up the South of Scotland Electricity Board and have it and the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, in answer to the demands of the then Scottish National Party. It was done by the Conservative Government, and it was probably a mistake. I do not think that it has done any good.

Now the SNP is suggesting that the same thing should be done with regard to gas. In a small country such as Britain it is not sensible to do this. Although electricity has been split up, it has to work as one unit, but it is responsible to two different Ministers.

Mr. Dalyell

I was right in surmising that the hon. Gentleman was pregnant with a worthwhile intervention. I leave it at that.

Mr. Galbraith

The delivery may not have been as good as it could have been.

Mr. Dalyell

I turn to the question of the consumers. Here I want to ask one question based on the document that we all have. The Consumer Council says: This Consumer Protection Committee would have responsibility (i) for ensuring that, when desirable, uniform law and enforcement should obtain on both sides of the border". That and a number of other matters in the document raise something of a confusion. There should be a Government response in the light of the kind of remarks so often made from the SNP Bench.

I come to the question of the disagreement that I have with my own Front Bench, which is a fundamental one. My hon. Friend the Minister of State was absolutely right to say that whatever may be said in soft tones in this Chamber, the situation in Scotland is very different. There have been repeated advertisements along the lines that it is "oor" oil, his oil, her oil, their oil. The truth is that without oil in the North Sea we should not be on the tenth day of this melodrama.

What the amendment reveals is that within days of the Assembly's meeting there would be a demand for the oil revenues. That is as certain as anything could be. The idea of passing the buck for refusing Scotland the oil revenues to three, four, or five wise men, or whatever the number may be, on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, is unrealistic. On 29th November my hon. Friend the Minister of State said: The most effective check against the Assembly extending its powers is the use of the Judicial Committee, but I have to counter arguments from the Opposition dealing with a rather academic matter. The vires check would be used if the Assembly sought to extend its powers by, for example, taxing oil revenues. It would then be checked by the Judicial Committee."—[Official Report, 29th November 1977; Vol. 940, c. 354.] Some of us might be forgiven for being sceptical about this. I wish my right hon. Friend the Lord President no harm, but it would serve him right if he were consigned at some future date to membership of the Judicial Committee which had to decide whether it was Scottish oil or British oil—whether it was "oor" oil or not. The buck is passed to the Judicial Committee, and I ask my colleagues to imagine the headline on the front page of the Daily Record after it made its decision. The headline might read "Foot, Dilhorne and Denning deny Scots Oor Oil". There would be a piece under neath, doubtless by Mr. Stewart McLaughlin, to the effect that "Three English Privy Councillors yesterday denied Scotland oor oil revenues. The Prime Minister of Scotland and his Cabinet will today go into emergency session to discuss what action they should take."

I see my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) nodding agreement. He and I know that that is not a fanciful scenario. It is exactly what would happen. The sentiments in the amendment are precisely those that would be translated into a clarion call from a section of the Assembly, a section which I suggest would not be limited to SNP Assemblymen.

Mr. John Smith


Mr. Dalyell

I am very aware of the temptations that politicians will face. It would be a brave candidate of any party who said "I think that in no circumstances should the Assembly to which I hope to be elected have the oil revenues". Every candidate will have to make promises. Great expectations have been raised, and in order to fulfil the promises someone will have to say where the money is coming from. The temptation will be to say that it will come from North Sea oil. Therefore, we have a great problem.

Later tonight, if there is time, we shall come to Schedule 12. Compared with the image of the Judicial Committee in deciding whether it is "oor" oil under the conditions of Schedule 12, Sir John Donaldson would be a figure of political objectivity. This is bringing the High Court into the politics of oil in a big way. Either now or in the debate on Schedule 12, this point must be tackled. The idea that the Judicial Committee should decide the most delicate, controversial, explosive question of the destination of the oil revenue is to drag the High Court into the political maelstrom in a way that should never happen.

Mr. John Smith

As my hon. Friend is making such a meal of this matter, may I say that what the Judicial Committee will be deciding is whether a measures falls within the vires of the Scotland Act? That is the only question that it will be deciding, and it is perfectly reasonable that it should. It is not involved in international or local politics. It is a matter of vires only. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that. I think that everyone else in the Chamber does.

Mr. Dalyell

That is a very comfortable point of view—

Mr. John Smith

It is true.

Mr. Dalyell

It is a very comfortable point of view. I am in some difficulty. I have sent copies of Hansard to seven judges of the High Court who, because of their legal pre-eminence, might be expected to serve on a Judicial Committee—Lords Denning, Diplock, Wilberforce, Edmund-Davies, Gardiner, Salmon and Dilhorne.

I cannot, of course, reveal the contents of the replies in public, but they were very discreet, and I am not saying that they were all on my side of the argument. All that I say is that my hon. Friend the Minister of State has a problem here, as we all have. It is one matter to inform the Registrar of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on this. It is another matter actually to discuss it with those who will be at the sharp end. If I am told that they may not be on the Judicial Committee, that may be so. The question is how the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is to be formed, because it would be even more controversial to have former Lords President of the Council from any party. Therefore, we are in the very greatest difficulty when discussing the politics of oil.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State is quite civilly impatient with me on the subject, but I wish that some of the scales would fall from the eyes of my own Front Bench to allow them to see the folly of what will happen in practice as a result of their actions. The speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, East really provides a classic argument for why this Bill should be defeated. This debate, albeit a long one, touches the very heart of the matter, which is what will happen should this Assembly ever be established.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

I agree very much with a great deal of what the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) said. I have found, in attending most of these debates on whatever clause, schedule or amendment it may have been, that, time and time again we have come back to the essential heart of the Bill and to the threat that the Bill poses to the unity of the United Kingdom.

I enjoyed the last speech of the Minister of State more than any other that I have heard so far. He rebutted the arguments of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) who, as the Minister said, spoke in a moderate tone and with smooth words. But, of course, the effect of the hon. Gentleman's amendment would be to prepare the way for a formal takeover of North Sea oil by the Scottish National Party before declaring Scotland an independent country. Everyone who is honest with himself must admit that oil has always been the main plank in the policy of the SNP and that the supposed wealth of oil for Scotland is the very nub of its case for independence.

Throughout these debates, I have been one of the few English Members present. I have been here partly to safeguard the interests of England but, just as important, to safeguard the interests of the United Kingdom. In my view, this amendment has rightly been called a wrecking amendment. It will deal a deadly blow to the unity of the United Kingdom.

We have heard various practical objections to the amendment. We have heard of the dangers to Scottish industry and to employment in Scotland, especially in those parts of industry supplying the oil and other energy industries, if this amendment were to be accepted and Scotland were to be responsible for the administration of the great oil industry.

In looking at our energy policy, I am certain that we have to do so from a United Kingdom point of view. Any attempt to deal with such a vast subject as energy policy in terms of Scotland or Wales or even of England would be a very grave mistake.

What has come out in this debate is that, without the discovery of North Sea oil, the Scottish National Party would not hold the seats in Scotland that it does today and we should not be debating this amendment to this Bill. Scotland was a poor country until the Union in 1707. After that, it flourished greatly for a long time until, I suppose, the depression of the late 1920s. Now it has once again gone through miseries which the Labour Government, unfortunately, have inflicted on the whole of the United Kingdom.

The capture of oil in the North Sea for Scotland's exclusive use offered a way out, and all those who were tempted by greed jumped on the Scottish National Party bandwagon. It has been an unedifying spectacle, especially for friends of Scotland in England who have always admired the Scottish people and their great contribution to the United Kingdom.

No one seriously believes that Scotland should take over the United Kingdom's oil. But the Scottish National Party raises the cry "We have been robbed." Through the ages it has been the cry of those with a chip on their shoulders and those with a grudge which they have developed and exaggerated to compensate themselves for their own shortcomings. That such an absurd amendment as this could be tabled shows what an absurd and extraordinary Bill this is and how far this Committee is straying from reality.

What annoys and distresses me and what, I know, annoys and distresses an increasingly large number of people in the United Kingdom as a whole, is that here we are in this Chamber, discussing the Scotland Bill day after day—we are on our tenth day today—while the country is still suffering from one of the most serious economic problems to have affected it since the war.

We know that oil can help with our balance of payments, but it is not the answer to our problems. The answer for Scotland, as for England and for the rest of the United Kingdom, is to learn to produce as efficiently as our competitors do, to cut down overmanning in our industries and to ensure that in design, quality, delivery and servicing our products are the equal of any other country's. That is the essential problem facing the country today—coupled with the lack of incentive and the low morale among many people without leadership. That is what we should be discussing, not this silly amendment in this dangerous and irrelevant Bill.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) said that in relation to North Sea oil the feeling had been expressed "We wuz robbed." The genesis of this amendment and the very philosophy of the Scottish National Party arise from feelings which, either real or imaginary, stem from the fact that people believe that the real benefits of North Sea oil have not reached particular individuals or groups of people.

Some months ago, I received a letter from a constituent. It was an anonymous letter. It was headed "Labour voter turning SNP". The letter made the point that, as a result of the boom in North Sea oil, people were coming from outside the city and getting houses which native Aberdonians could not get, and getting all the best jobs which native Aberdonians could not get, and that their children were overcrowding the schools, making it difficult for the children of native Aberdonians. They also seem to have a very high rate of sickness, because apparently it is more difficult to get into hospital because of the non-Aberdonians. At the same time, the non-Aberdonians are apparently coming to the city and benefiting from the social services.

The letter closed with a remark which I am sure every hon. Member has had directed towards him, either verbally or in writing at some time— Send them back to where they belong. But that means sending them back to Glasgow, not to England, and certainly not to some far overseas place.

It is difficult to know how my constituent's fears can be cured, and, when I hear in this amendment, as in others, how there is a strong case for either the proposed Assembly taking over the control of North Sea oil and its depletion or an independent Scotland doing so, I find myself almost giving way to certain temptations—not because of greed but simply on the basis of trying to do my best for my constituents and for other people around Aberdeen.

I am not sure whether I am making a formal announcement but I am tempted to say that it is perhaps a good idea to form a new party which would be dedicated to the Grampians. Its aim would be a Grampian unilateral declaration of independence. There would be certain difficulties. It may not have penetrated the mind of the Comimttee that if one took the initials of the party, GUDI, the members would be known as "The Goodies". That would be a good start.

We are told that North Sea oil revenues might reach £3 billion per year. If one drew boundaries, however generous one were to the Orkneys and Shetlands, I reckon that my new independent State could claim two-thirds of the oil. That would give us a guaranteed income of £2 billion a year. I do not wish to say whom I would recommend to be life-president of this oil-rich kingdom, but I promise to carry out my duties faithfully.

Certain difficulties are involved in the question where one draws boundaries. The city of Aberdeen, which is Labour-controlled, would become the heartland of the new country. One could draw the boundary carefully so that it came just above the high water mark and project the boundaries out and claim the oil. I know that this proposition is a farce, but it is no more a farce than is the SNP proposition. By drawing boundaries in certain ways members of the SNP say that they have a right to claim the oil revenues.

There is little cultural or other affinity between the East and West coasts of Scotland. The only time that I received a standing ovation was when I was being heckled by the SNP. Jokingly, I said "It is Aberdeen oil". When they cheered me I had to say "Steady on, boys, it is a joke". The whole idea that we should claim revenues on the basis of spurious geographical lines is pure farce, and the sooner we recognise it the better.

Mr. Sproat

A number of hon. Members have correctly pointed out that if it were not for North Sea oil the SNP would be nowhere. That is indisputable. We know that there are other reasons for members of the SNP receiving votes, but if it were not for oil they would not have more than one hon. Member in the House of Commons. Despite the fact that they run on oil, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) gave a low-key speech on the one subject that swept him to power. We have the right to ask why he spoke in so low a key on a subject that he presents in such a hysterical key in Scotland. The reason is that North Sea oil is turning out to be a subject with rather more traps than he thought.

I am pleased to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Aberdeen. North (Mr. Hughes) in his farcical metaphor. It is no more ridiculous to talk of Aberdeen oil than to talk of Scottish oil. It is significant that in those two parts of Scotland where North Sea oil has already made the biggest impact—in Shetland and Grampian—the Bill is likely to receive a "No" vote in the referendum.

Like many hon. Members, I have received another letter from the Shetland Islands Council saying that it wants no part in the Bill. I am sure that if I asked the Grampian Regional Council it would be only too happy to say in even stronger terms what the Shetland Islands Council has already said.

7.15 p.m.

Perhaps the truth cannot be too frequently reiterated. Shetland has about 60 per cent. of the oil. That is why the hon. Member for Dundee, East was in such a low key. He did not want to draw attention to the fact that the Shetland Islands do not want anything to do with an independent Scotland or a Scottish Assembly. That truth wipes out the SNP's economic and other arguments. It is totally devastating to that party's case.

When the amendment was moved, we noticed something that was conspicuous by its absence—another two-faced argument that the SNP continually puts forward. When speaking to conservationists, members of the SNP say "Look at Norway. What a happy country that is, drawing out the oil slowly so that they do not have the problems involved in extracting the oil at the maximum rate." Members of the SNP say that they will move more slowly and take full account of the conservationists' argument.

They say that with one side of their mouth, but with the other they promise, on the billboards of Scotland, that "It is her oil", showing a picture of a poor old-age pensioner to illustrate that slogan. There is nothing that members of the SNP say will not be paid for by the oil, but that can be done only by extracting the oil at the fastest possible rate at the highest price.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East approaches the subject in such a low key because he is aware that although he can get away with it in Scotland, when holding a Press conference and with no one to challenge him, it is another matter to present this economic nonsense to the House. The hon. Member therefore tried to skate over it.

Earlier an hon. Member talked about a self-governing Scotland, and the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) shouted "Sovereignty". It is unnecessary to go into the semantic differences between "sovereignty" and "self-governing independence". Members of the SNP are happy to talk about sovereignty when it has an emotional ring about it. But the hon. Member for Dundee, East did not want to talk about sovereignty, because he did not want to enter into all the clownish trappings that that entails—a Scottish air force, Scottish navy, Scottish customs and a Scottish diplomatic corps. Such trappings would cost about £1,000 million. Nor did he mention a Scottish dictator or Scottish president, which would cost even more. Sovereignty is mentioned when it is part of an emotional argument in Scotland but not when it involves all the extra costs which would eat up most of what North Sea oil would bring in, even assuming that Shetland oil and all the oil from the Auk, Josephine and Argyll fields went to Scotland.

There are many examples of the implicit dishonesty in the way in which the amendment was moved. It was typical of the case that members of the SNP present on every possible occasion. To each audience they give according to what they believe that audience wishes to hear.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) is not in the Chamber, because he made the type of speech that one can always respect. Even if one disagrees with him, if one puts a fact to him which he has not taken into account he will always say "That is a point", and try to get round it. There is an intellectual honesty about that approach.

When the hon. Member for Renfrew-shire, West said that Scotland had done very well out of the Union, the hon. Member for Dundee, East muttered "No, it has not." Yet every hon. Member knows that before oil entered the scene Scotland was getting out of the Union 20 per cent. more per head of the population than was England. According to the latest figures provided by the Chancellor of the Exchequer expenditure in Scotland per head over England is running at 30 per cent. Yet the nationalists persist in saying that Scotland gets nothing out of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member said tonight "They will be spending the oil money in England." We know that Scotland now gets more than its fair share. There is no doubt that in the future, however the oil revenue is spent—whether, as Labour Members would like, to regenerate industry, or, as we would prefer, to cut taxation—Scotland will certainly benefit. The hon. Member for Dundee, East did not rise to his feet and ask about the 30 per cent. He muttered his comment sotto voce.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

If I rose to my feet on every insulting statement, I would never be off them. Does the hon. Member agree that Scotland has had less than its fair share of economic growth in the United Kingdom and far more than its fair share of unemployment?

Mr. Sproat

I cannot go into the definition of fair shares of unemployment or growth without straying out of order. But in that matter which is easily quantifiable, namely, money, Scotland gets more per head than any other part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the hon. Member have any figures to show, with every piece of Scottish industry or commerce, for how long after the Union the Scots still had some minute say in the Scottish economy?

Mr. Sproat

It would be fascinating to look into that and to look also into those companies which are resident in England and which I object to calling English companies, which were founded by Scotsmen and have Scottish managing directors or chairmen. It would be interesting to look into those great United Kingdom companies which have Scottish origins. I am thinking of Dunlop, as an example.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I do not think that the hon. Member understood my point. It was that the decline and fall of any part of Scottish industry or Scottish commerce was the fault of no one but the owners. In 95 per cent, of cases they were Scots themselves.

Mr. Sproat

The decline kept pace with the decline of natural resources, but that is not attributable to any Englishman. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North is absolutely right. The SNP completely ignores that argument.

Let me return to one statement of principle on this amendment—the statement that what ever else we do, our energy programmes in this country must be unified; they must be United Kingdom programmes. It would be madness to have a Scottish energy programme or an English energy programme. The hon. Member for Dundee, East wants to devolve the control of North Sea oil to a Scottish Assembly as a step towards an independent Scotland. What would happen if a Scottish Assembly had control over the oil in Scotland while control of the oil discoveries which have just been made in Dorset remain under the control of this House? It would be absolute madness to develop two lots of controls and regulations, one for oil in Aberdeen and the other for oil in Dorset. The mind boggles at the bureacuracy, the confusion, the mistakes and the chaos that would result from trying to handle oil in different ways in different parts of the United Kingdom.

There is then the absurdity of the coal industry. No one in that industry has ever supported anything that the SNP has said about devolving control and responsibility for Scottish coal. My hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) pointed out that under this Government the Scottish coal industry had been subsidised to the extent of about £40 million by the United Kingdom Treasury and by that part of the British mining industry that lies outside Scotland.

Scotland gets its gas from off the Norfolk coast. That gas is supplied to every part of the United Kingdom at an equal price. The hon. Member for Dundee, East complained that his house did not get the gas very quickly. How soon does he think the people in Cornwall got their gas? Does the hon. Member believe that there is an official in the Department of Energy whose job it is to ensure that the Scots get their gas after the people of Lancashire or Cornwall? It defies credibility to think that the British Government operate on that basis.

I leave aside the ludicrous principle of trying to divide up the energy resources of this country in order to give one example of the slippery arguments that the SNP uses. In this case it was the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Dundee, East in respect of research, the last named item in the amendment. He said that research should be devolved, but then he hurriedly moved on, because he knew that it would be ludicrous to devolve research to the Scottish Assembly. He said that of course research should be done on a European or even a world basis. There may be subjects which should be researched on such a wide basis, but at the moment research is done on a British basis. The hon. Member argued that research should be done on a European basis because of size. He defeats, with the logic of his own argument, his suggestion that research should be devolved to Scotland, which would be smaller.

As well as disregarding common sense and principle the nationalists are blatantly dishonest. One of the advantages of this House is that there are people here with enough intelligence to see through what the nationalists are trying to do. In Scotland they can get away with the slogan "It is your granny's oil", but they cannot do that here, and if this debate does nothing else it will enable us once and for all to nail down the SNP.

Mr. Budgen

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) that this debate is about oil. He concentrated upon oil because it is the promise of the oil revenues transforming the Scottish economy which has given life and force to the Scottish nationalist movement.

An interesting attack was launched against the SNP by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). He said that its policy was one of greed and he asked whether it was right that a nation should be rich simply because within its territory there was oil. He asked equally whether it was right for a nation to be rich because it had fertile land. I disagreed with his conclusion. The distribution of wealth is usually by chance. It might be by the chance of inheritance or by the chance of differences in ability. There is no alternative to that but the allocation of resources through direction by the State.

I do not attack the SNP on the ground that it is greedy. What I attack the SNP about is the question whether its greed is wise greed, whether it uses its greed in order to enoble enlightened self-interest. Even on the most favourable assumptions, I would suggest that the greed of the SNP is likely to turn out to be self-defeating.

7.30 p.m.

Let us put the case on the basis of greed at its highest. Let us assume for a moment that all the oil in the North Sea could be described as Scottish oil. Let us assume that the Shetland problem does not exist and that the Shetlands can be regarded as part of Scotland for these purposes. What are the advantages that will accrue as a result of that oil? First of all, it must be pointed out that there is no such thing as a free market price for oil. It is a rigged market. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) has said, it is expensive oil. It is expensive because the price has been artificially kept high by the OPEC cartel.

Therefore, the principal advantage of this very expensive oil is not so much on the balance of payments, because that is going to mean that in all probability we shall have an over-valued currency. The real advantage will be in the tax take that will be levied on this expensive oil. Here again, on the assumption that all the oil is Scottish oil, what is the tax take that will come from the oil? It will be £2 billion a year in 1980. We cannot, because of the falsely high price of oil, look much further than 1980. But let us assume that because of the high price the rate of depletion is as fast as was predicted to 1980. Then it is £2 billion.

Let us try to see what £2 billion is in terms of the United Kingdom economy at present. According to the Government's expenditure plans in the White Paper published last week, in 1980 public expenditure will be running in the United Kingdom at about £60 billion. Therefore, by 1980, of that £60 billion, £2 billion will be contributed by the tax from North Sea oil.

Let us look at some of the Government's public expenditure plans in areas which are believed to be particularly important to Scotland. I am looking at Volume 2 of the Government's White Paper on public expenditure. In 1980–81 public expenditure on trade, industry and em- ployment will be about £2 billion. Against the advantage of having that £2 billion for their exclusive use, the Scottish people will, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South pointed out, have all the disadvantages of maintaining the trappings of sovereignty. They will have their own army, their own air force, their own diplomatic service, their own dictator or republic, or whatever they wish to have. As the hon. Member modestly puts it, this will be at a cost of about £1 billion a year. That is half of the oil revenues gone.

The best that can be hoped for the Scottish people, if they were to have a short-lived independence based upon those transitory and small revenues from the oil is 10, 15 or 20 years of sovereignty. Then what would happen? The Scottish National Party does not seem to understand the effect on the British people of independence based upon transitory wealth. The English people at present may be deluding themselves that the economic miracle that is often promised will now come about because of the oil revenues. No doubt it can properly be argued that all this talk about oil wealth is a damaging illusion to the English people.

But let us assume that the English people are denied that illusion and that all the oil revenues go to Scotland. The English people would have a few disagreeable years. There would have to be fiercer cuts in public expenditure than there might otherwise have been. But there would not be any long-term damage to the British economy if Scotland becomes independent. But one thing is clear. If Scotland, with her 5 million people, were to become independent, the attitude of the 50 million English people towards the price of oil would be different. We are now as keen as any oil sheikh to preserve the cartel and, as the hon. Member points out, not just to hold up the price but to push it up.

If we in England had no oil at all, as the hon. Gentleman points out, our interest would then be in cheap oil. It is precisely because we have a United Kingdom Parliament that we never adequately discuss the rights and wrongs and the pros and cons of holding up the price of oil and having more expensive energy. But it is certain that if it were all Scotland's oil, the 50 million consumers of energy in England would be on the side of the cheapest possible oil that they could get.

Everybody knows that the capacity of the Saudis for the production of oil is far greater than the amount that they are producing at present. It could well be in their interests to flood the world with cheap oil and break the cartel.

Even if the illusion were true that Scotland might have 10 or 15 years of great and glorious wealth, with all the trappings of sovereignty and the featherbedding of the biggest and best Welfare State in the world, and all the industries never having to be subject to any market forces, the illusion is likely to be cut down and broken up by the stronger diplomatic forces of 50 million English people.

But what happens when the illusion is gone, when independence is seen not to be the great dream that Scotland hoped it would be? Does Scotland then come snivelling back to England? Does it then come grovelling along and ask to be taken back into the United Kingdom? Does Scotland say that the dream of independence based upon the oil revenues has turned out to be an illusion? Do the Scottish people say "There ain't as much money in oil as we thought there would be. We find that we are not as successful in diplomatic negotiations."?

Mr. Andrew Welsh (South Angus)

The hon. Member poses a very interesting question. Can he name any country in the world which, having been allowed independence from England, has come snivelling back asking to return to English rule?

Mr. Budgen

We are talking not about a colony but about a part of the United Kingdom. We are not talking about Pakistan or a country that naturally and rightly has its own sense of national historic identity. We are talking about two peoples who have stood together in peace and war ever since the Union and who are wholly and totally intertwined. We are talking about a dramatic severance that is proposed by a section of our United Kingdom. They should understand what they propose.

The logic of the severence is that the Scottish people will be severed for ever. If, after 10, 15 or 20 years, the Scottish people were to say "We have blued it all, we have had a ball, but the assumptions on which we demanded independence have now changed", what would the English say? For example, the Scots might say "We are having a row with Norway about some of the marginal fields which we are now finally exploiting. We would like to give up our independence and join you, the 50 million English people, once again." What would the English say? I hope that they would be generous. I hope that they would say "Come back into the United Kingdom." But the SNP is inviting the Scottish people to take a grave risk.

I think that we are able adequately to point to the dangers facing the Scottish people in hoping for a short, illusory period of wealth. We ask them to weigh all that against the honour and dignity of being part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

This amendment is larcenous and ludicrous. It is larcenous because it seeks to steal from the people of the United Kingdom as a whole the oil that has been developed off our shores for our benefit. It demonstrates, as many hon. Members have said, that the Scottish National Party founds its argument on larceny.

Secondly, the amendment is ludicrous—

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Griffiths

I have more to say. Secondly, the amendment is ludicrous because the oil off the northern part of the United Kingdom is no more the exclusive property of the Scots than the food of Norfolk and Suffolk is the exclusive property of the people of East Anglia, part of which I have the honour to represent.

The East Anglians historically were a significant nation. From time to time they are tempted, when successive Governments in Whitehall get a little highhanded, to seek to go their own way. Indeed, on the basis of their corn, sugar beet, pigs and control of the important ports that now link us with the Common Market, it is possible that East Anglia could seek to go its own way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) referred to the gas that has been brought ashore in Norfolk. When that gas came ashore in Norfolk, the people of East Anglia did not start to talk about "oor gas". They recognised that the gas coming ashore at Bacton was for the benefit of the United Kingdom as a whole. Although it was piped to and distributed from Norfolk and Suffolk, causing considerable inconvenience for people in East Anglia, they recognised that it was for the benefit of the United Kingdom as a whole. Therefore, the amendment is larcenous and ludicrous.

The effect of the amendment would be to put all the hydrocarbons—the oil, the coal and so on—under the hammer of the Scottish Parliament. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Shetland and seeing some of the oil installations in the seas off the northern part of the United Kingdom. What is taking place there is, by any measure, a tremendous achievement of which this country can be extremely proud. The building of the ports, the refineries and the oil tank farms represents an enormously impressive achievement. That has been done not by the Scots alone, although they have taken a leading part, but by the international oil industry which has based its planning and obtained its investment on the United Kingdom as a whole. I do not believe that would have happened so speedily if there had been anything remotely resembling a separate Scottish nationalist Administration in Edinburgh.

Mr. Welsh

Why not?

Mr. Griffiths

That is my judgment. I do not believe that the international oil companies would have dreamed of basing the whole of their investment on the notions that have been put forward by SNP Members.

Mr. Welsh

Why did not the oil companies hesitate to move into Norway, which is similar to what would be represented by an independent Scotland? Why should they hesitate to do a job of work in Scotland if they are doing a similar job in Norway?

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Norway is more sensible.

An important aspect of oil development in the Shetlands is the supecial arrangement that has been made for the Shetland Islands Council. I regret that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is not present. I am sure that his absence from the Chamber is for a reason that we would all understand.

Mr. John Smith

I think that the hon. Gentleman should be fair. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) was present when the hon. Gentleman was not.

Mr. Griffiths

I am not seeking to draw attention to the right hon. Gentleman's absence. I am sure that it is for a very good reason. I do not wish to say anything that might offend him.

The talks with the Shetland Islands Council and many representatives of industry, agriculture, fishing and local community councils demonstrated the value that is attached to Shetland's single county council, to the arrangements that have been made for special controls over planning concerning oil and to access to a modest, but important, fund for the protection of the environment and, as time goes on, for help for local industries—notably fishing, crofting and woollens—affected by the inflationary effect of oil production.

It is right that those powers should exist. But what would happen if control were to pass exclusively to the Scottish Assembly? I believe that at some stage, whether the amendment is carried or not, the Scottish Assembly may seek to interfere with the local government provisions of the Shetlands. However, that matter is for another occasion.

I believe that in the long term, the Scottish Assembly would be unlikely to allow the Shetland islanders to have their special fund, which is different from any other arrangement within Scotland's finances. I am sure that, as Glasgow and other great cities of Scotland get into difficulties with housing and social problems of one kind or another, inevitably the majority in the Scottish Assembly will cast envious eyes on the financial arrangements that have been made for the Shetlands and will seek to put an end to them, consequently destroying the guarantee that the Shetland Islands will have funds available to protect their environment, fishing, crofting and woollens from the inflationary impact of the oil industry.

In those circumstances, it is highly improbable that Shetland will be prepared to go along with these arrangements. We might be confronted with the absurd situation of the Shetland islanders regarding an independent Scotland as a threat to their proper control of their own affairs. Therefore, on simple, practical grounds, the only effect of the amendment would be to polarise the issue between Scotland and the Shetlands, and that could do no good for anyone.

I hope that the amendment will not be accepted. It is absurd. It has at least demonstrated that the Scottish National Party is after not devolution but independence based upon the theft of United Kingdom oil.

Mr. John Smith

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asked me some questions. I do not want to take up very much time because I think that we are, perhaps, guilty of overkill in spending so much time on the amendment when the view of the Committee is predictable. I see the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) nodding his head. I had him in mind in making those comments.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian asked some questions about the

Shetland Islands. His questions related to fishing, agriculture and oil. I do not quite understand the point that he was developing because fishing, except in the limited sense of salmon and fresh-water fishing, is not devolved. Nor is agriculture, energy or, for that matter, ports. I have attempted to set out, with some care, the answers to these questions in my correspondence with the Shetland County Council.

That was the substance of the points raised by my hon. Friend, who I see has just re-entered the Chamber. I do not wish to be discourteous to him so I will say that I have been dealing with the points that he raised concerning freshwater fishing, agriculture and oil. None of these matters is devolved. The amendment would devolve them, it is true, but the points my hon. Friend was putting forward would arise on the Bill passing without this amendment.

I have given up the task of trying to explain to my hon. Friend the functions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It would be a mercy on my part to spare the Committee any further explanation.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes, 14, Noes 289.

Division No. 65] AYES [7.50 p.m.
Bain, Mrs Margaret Reid, George Watt, Hamish
Crawford, Douglas Robertson, John (Paisley) Wigley, Dafydd
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Sillars, James
Henderson, Douglas Stewart, Rt Hon Donald TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
MacCormick, Iain Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Mr. Gordon Wilson and
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Thompson, George Mr. Andrew Welsh.
Adley, Robert Blenkinsop, Arthur Carmichael, Neil
Allaun, Frank Boardman, H. Clemitson, Ivor
Anderson, Donald Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boscawen, Hon Robert Coleman, Donald
Armstrong, Ernest Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Cope, John
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Bradford, Rev Robert Corbett, Robin
Atkinson, Norman Bradley, Tom Costain, A. P.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Brittan, Leon Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)
Banks, Robert Brotherton, Michael Crawshaw, Richard
Bates, Alf Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)
Bean, R. E. Buchan, Norman Cunningham, G. (Islington S)
Beith, A. J. Buchanan, Richard Dalyell, Tam
Bell, Ronald Buchanan-Smith, Alick Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Budgen, Nick Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Deakins, Eric
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Benyon, W. Campbell, Ian Dempsey, James
Bidwell, Sydney Canavan, Dennis Doig, Peter
Biffen, John Cant, R. B. Dormand, J. D.
Bishop. Rt Hon Edward Carlisle, Mark Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Dunnett, Jack Knox, David Rathbone, Tim
Dykes, Hugh Lamond, James Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Edge, Geoff Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Lawrence, Ivan Rhodes James, R.
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lee, John Richardson, Miss Jo
English, Michael Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rifkind, Malcolm
Ennals, Rt Hon David Litterick, Tom Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Lloyd, Ian Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fairgrieve, Russell Loveridge, John Roderick, Caerwyn
Farr, John Loyden, Eddie Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Faulds, Andrew Luard, Evan Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McAdden, Sir Stephen Rooker, J. W.
Flannery, Martin McCartney, Hugh Rose, Paul B.
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) McCrindle, Robert Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McCusker, H. Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael McDonald, Dr Oonagh Ross, William (Londonderry)
Ford, Ben McElhone, Frank Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Forman, Nigel Macfarlane, Neil Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Forrester, John McGuire, Michael (Ince) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Sever, John
Freud Clement MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Shepherd, Colin
Fry, Peter Mackintosh, John P. Silverman, Julius
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Maclennan, Robert Silvester, Fred
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Sims, Roger
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Sinclair, Sir George
Garrett, W. E.(Wallsend) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Skinner, Dennis
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John McNamara, Kevin Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Madden, Max Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Ginsburg, David Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Glyn, Dr Alan Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Snape, Peter
Golding, John Marten, Neil Spearing, Nigel
Gourlay, Harry Mather, Carol Spriggs, Leslie
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mawby, Ray Sproat, Iain
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stallard, A. W.
Graham, Ted Maynard, Miss Joan Steel, Rt Hon David
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Meacher, Michael Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mendelson, John Stoddart, David
Gray, Hamish Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Stokes, John
Grieve, Percy Miscampbell, Norman Stott, Roger
Griffiths, Eldon Miscampbell, Norman Stradling Thomas, J.
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mitchell, Austin Strang, Gavin
Grist, Ian Moate, Roger Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Hardy, Peter Molloy, William Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Molyneaux, James Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Monro, Hector Tebbit, Norman
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Montgomery, Fergus
Haselhurst, Alan Morgan, Geraint Temple-Morris, Peter
Hawkins, Paul Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hayhoe, Barney Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Hayman, Mrs Helene Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Tierney, Sydney
Heseltine, Michael Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Torney, Tom
Holland, Philip Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Townsend, Cyril D.
Hooley, Frank Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Tuck, Raphael
Hooson, Emlyn Nelson, Anthony Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Noble, Mike Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Orbach, Maurice Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Huckfield, Les Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Watkins, David
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Ovenden, John Weatherill, Bernard
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Weetch, Ken
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, John (Harrow West) Wells, John
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) White, James (Pollok)
Hunter, Adam Page, Richard (Workington) Whitlock, William
Hutchison, Michael Clark Pardoe, John Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Park, George Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Parker, John Winterton, Nicholas
Jeger, Mrs Lena Parkinson, Cecil Wise, Mrs Audrey
Johnson, James (Hull West) Parry, Robert Woodall, Alec
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Pattie, Geoffrey Woof, Robert
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pavitt, Laurie Wrigglesworth, Ian
Judd, Frank Pendry, Tom Young, David (Bolton E)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Penhaligon, David Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Kerr, Russell Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Younger, Hon George
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Price, David (Eastleigh)
King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Pym, Rt Hon Francis TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Radice, Giles Mr. James Hamilton and
Kinnock, Neil Raison, Timothy Mr. James Tinn.
Knight, Mrs Jill

Question accordingly negatived.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. George Reid (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I beg to move Amendment No. 468, in page 48, line 4, at end insert—