HC Deb 26 July 1979 vol 971 cc879-80
Q4. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Prime Minister if she will make a statement on her recent official visit to Scotland.

The Prime Minister

I was glad to be able to visit Edinburgh on 11 July and to see at first hand the effective work that is being done by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and his departments. I visited a medical supplies factory, a hospital, police headquarters and a fisheries protection vessel as well as St. Andrew's House, where I had useful discussions with my right hon. Friend and his staff; I also called on the Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

Mr. Griffiths

Now that the statute book has been wiped clean of the Scotland Act and the Wales Act, what further plans has my right hon. Friend for that type of devolution on which the Government were elected—devolution from an over-large State to the individual citizen?

The Prime Minister

There is, of course, a great deal of administrative devolution already in Scotland. One thing that impressed me was that 8,000 people administer Scotland in Scotland and only 60 in Whitehall, so administrative devolution is very much in being. My hon. Friend asked about real devolution, that is, giving power back to the people. We hope to continue the cuts in taxation. We hope also substantially to reduce the number of controls on local authorities and on industry. That is real devolution.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does the right hon. Lady recall that during the previous Parliament the Tory Opposition campaigned vigorously for the dispersal of Civil Service jobs to Scotland? Will she undertake that those jobs will still go to Scotland in the numbers planned by the Labour Government? When does she think that unemployment in Scotland will, as a direct result of her policies, increase to 300,000 or 400,000?

The Prime Minister

A statement on dispersal will be made within a few minutes. It would be better if I were not to trespass on that. I hope that the ultimate result of our policies will be to increase genuine employment.

Mr. Henderson

Not only my right hon. Friend's recent visit to Edinburgh but her previous visits to Scotland in general have been appreciated. Will she confirm that Scotland provides a marvellous environment in which both to live and to work, not only for civil servants but for science-based industries, which would find an admirable quality of staff in Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I hope to visit more science-based industries in Scotland and to make other visits. I hope also to spend part of my holidays there.

Mr. David Steel

When the right hon. Lady and her ministerial colleagues refer to devolution in Scotland, will they leave out, in that context, discussion of the proposed Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? Is she aware that we had one such Committee before and that it was not a riotous success?

The Prime Minister

I did not include it in my reply.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Since the Tory vote in the referendum was influenced by the advice of Lord Home to vote "No" on the ground that he would see that a better Bill was produced than the Scotland Act, what representations has the right hon. Lady had from the noble Lord which would indicate that he has any intention of carrying out his promise?

The Prime Minister

I am in quite frequent touch with my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Home. His advice is always excellent. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will consult my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House about future talks on devolution.