HC Deb 04 July 1979 vol 969 cc1350-2
5. Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the employment consequences to Scotland of the dispersal of Civil Service jobs from the Ministry of Defence and the Overseas Development Administration to Glasgow and surrounding districts.

Mr. Younger

This depends on assumptions about local recruitment and the multiplier effect, but the regional implications and the importance of job structure will be taken fully into account in the current review of the dispersal programme.

Mr. MacKenzie

Is the Secretary of State aware that many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are very concerned to hear that there will be a review at all, in view of the specific assurances given by his predecessor and by him at the Dispatch Box only a month ago that the full dispersal would go ahead? May we now have from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that there will be no diminution of the numbers going to Glasgow and East Kilbride? Will he tell the House how much has already been expended by the SDA, and local authorities, in preparing for these people coming to Glasgow?

Mr. Younger

I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have been a little chary of expressing such extreme remarks and would have regarded a review as an extremely reasonable exercise to undertake, particularly in view of the extreme dilatoriness of the previous Government over this question. I understand from the Property Services Agency that it has spent £3.45 million on the acquisition of sites at St. Enoch's and Anderston for the dispersal proposed there.

Mr. Galbraith

Will my right hon. Friend please contradict the rumours, now prevalent, that the Ministry of Defence is not to move to Glasgow? Will he confirm that this vital aspect of decentralisation and devolution is to be carried out as soon as possible, as I asked him to confirm in our recent debate on the Scotland Act—which I do not think was mentioned in his reply? I have also written to him and have not had a reply.

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interest. I have made clear that no decisions on this matter have been taken. All these factors, and the concern expressed by my hon. Friend and others, will be taken into account in the course of the review, but no decisions have yet been taken.

Mr. Cook

If the Secretary of State is unable to persuade his colleagues in Parliament to disperse Civil Service jobs to Scotland, will he at least resist their demands that he slash the number of Civil Service jobs already in Scotland? Will he not at least recognise that his statement on Saturday that the Scottish Office was a great success—a success of which the people who worked in it should be proud—must have been greeted with a hollow laugh by most of his staff, bearing in mind the commitment to cut out one in eight posts in the Scottish Office?

Mr. Younger

There is no such commitment. What I have been discussing with my staff is the necessity, which all Government Departments must recognise, in view of the parlous state of the economy of this country as it was left by the previous Government, to reduce our expenditure on necessary services to a level we can afford. If the hon. Gentleman does not like it, he should have persuaded the previous Government to do something about it.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the problems about dispersal has been the unfavourable image projected of Glasgow and the surrounding area? Will he impress upon those concerned the excellent amenities and the very high quality of life available in many parts of West Central Scotland including, of course, East Renfrewshire?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend that the best answer to the so-called unfavourable image is the extreme success of the Post Office savings bank which has been successfully established in Glasgow. People there enjoy it very much.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Will the Secretary of State accept that the kind of wriggling replies that he has given this afternoon are liable to do him an injury? Will he also accept that if Glasgow and West Scotland do not get these 6,000 Civil Service jobs that will be regarded as a total and complete betrayal of Glasgow and West Scotland?

Mr. Younger

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not anticipate the results of the review. It is perfectly reasonable, and right, for a new Government to review such matters as these. I hope that he will await the outcome of the review.

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